The report follows a controversial study by the same author, Tom Smith, last October that downplayed the number of Muslims in America. Smith estimated a total of 1.9 million Muslims, far less than the 6 million figure frequently cited by Muslim groups. In the new report, Smith pulls together various surveys to estimate that there are an estimated 1.4 million Buddhists and between 800,000 and 1.1 million Hindus in the United States. He said some figures have created "an impression of prominence beyond the actual size of these groups."
As a portion of the larger population, Smith's figures would place Muslims at 0.67 percent of the population, Buddhists at 0.02 to 0.06 percent, and Hindus at about 0.03 or 0.04 percent. Smith readily admits that non-Judeo-Christian faiths have been gaining popularity but argues that some claims--such as Muslims outnumbering Methodists or Presbyterians--are misleading. "Impressive as the actual changes in nontraditional religions have been, they cannot match these and many related claims about the growth and size of these religions," he wrote.
A survey by the City University of New York last year found that 2.4 percent of Americans belong to non-Judeo-Christian faiths. Smith says Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism represent about half of those minority believers. Smith said such faiths "make up a small, but growing, share of America's religious mosaic."
Last year's study raised tensions between Jews and Muslims, with some groups questioning the AJC's motives in lowering the Muslim numbers. Ken Bandler, an AJC spokesman, said the studies are not an attempt to discredit other groups but simply to "gather information so that we can do our interreligious affairs work much better."