Los Angeles Times: Shifting sands of religion and politics
Americans tolerate a broader array of religious affiliations in their politicians.
... Of the 44 U.S. presidents, all but a handful have been affiliated with a relatively narrow list of traditional Protestant denominations.
Eleven were Episcopalians (12 if you count Thomas Jefferson, whose adult beliefs are a subject of debate), eight were Presbyterians, four were Methodists and four were Baptists. Others included Congregationalists, Dutch Reformed and Disciples of Christ. ...
... But among the leading candidates for this year's Republican presidential nomination, not one is a member of the Protestant denominations that for so long have dominated American political culture.
Two of the potential candidates are Mormons (former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.); one is a member of an interdenominational evangelical church (former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty); two others are Catholics (former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum). Rep. Michele Bachmann, who says she's considering the race, worships at an evangelical Lutheran church; if elected, she'd be the first Lutheran president.
But no matter who wins from this list, it won't be an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian or a Methodist.
The denominational diversity of the GOP field reflects a trend that has been building for half a century: the decline of the "mainline" churches' size and influence. Among Protestants, evangelical congregations have taken off, and the old mainline denominations have been shrinking. ...