When the 113th Congress is sworn in today, its new members will include the first Hindu member of Congress and the first Buddhist to serve as senator. Also for the first time, Congress will welcome a member who describes her religion as "none."
Democratic Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who was raised a Mormon, is religiously unaffiliated but does not describe herself as an atheist. Her campaign was unavailable for comment to Whispers due to the swearing in, but spokesman Justin Ungatold the Religious News Service in November that Sinema favors a "secular approach." He told the New York Times the same month that Sinema "believes the terms 'nontheist,' 'atheist' or 'nonbeliever' are not befitting of her life's work or personal character."
Despite the clear distinction, both secular and atheist groups have cheered her rise to Congress. In March 2011, The Center for Inquiry presented the Arizona attorney and professor with its Award for the Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy, which "recognizes legislators who support public policy based on scientific thinking" while "maintaining church-state separation," according to its web site.
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