New Jersey


With a history of religious tolerance, New Jersey has welcomed many denominations to its shores. Dutch immigrants founded a Reformed Church in 1662, the first in the state. After the English took control, Puritans came from New England and Long Island, Congregationalists from Connecticut, and Baptists from Rhode Island. Quaker settlements in Shrewsbury and western New Jersey during the early 1670s predated the better-known Quaker colony in Pennsylvania. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, German Lutherans, and Methodists arrived during the 18th century. The state's first synagogue was established in 1848, in Newark.

About the only religion not tolerated by New Jerseyites was Catholicism; the first Catholic parish was not organized until 1814 and laws excluding Catholics from holding office were on the books until 1844. The Catholics' numbers swelled as a result of Irish immigration after 1845, and even more with the arrival of Italians after 1880. Today, Roman Catholics constitute the state's single largest religious group. Passaic is the headquarters of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite in the Byzantine Catholic Church.

In 2000, the number of Roman Catholics within the state was at about 3,403,020. The next largest group were Jewish, with about 468,000 members. The largest Protestant denomination was the United Methodist Church, with 140,133 adherents, followed by the Presbyterian Church USA, with 119,735; the Episcopal Church, 91,964; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 79,264. There were about 120,724 Muslims in the state. Nearly 3.5 million people (about 42.3% of the population) were not counted as members of any religious organization.