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Religious lobbying a growth industry

Religious lobbying a growth industry

The Pew Forum reports on lobbying by faith groups:

The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly fivefold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today.

These groups collectively employ at least 1,000 people in the greater Washington area and spend at least $390 million a year on efforts to influence national public policy. As a whole, religious advocacy organizations work on about 300 policy issues. For most of the past century, religious advocacy groups in Washington focused mainly on domestic affairs. Today, however, roughly as many groups work only on international issues as work only on domestic issues, and nearly two-thirds of the groups work on both. These are among the key findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life that examines a total of 212 religion-related advocacy groups operating in the nation’s capital.

The biggest spenders according to the survey as reported by The Washington Post:

… include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and established social conservative groups focusing on abortion, same-sex marriage and home-schooling. The report’s authors said that the science of identifying “religious” advocates was imprecise but that they picked groups that said they were driven by faith convictions.

The work of religious advocates mirrors the issues on the rise in America; the early lobbying groups focused on temperance and funding for Native American schools. Their focus — and the groups themselves — then switched over the decades to focus on the Vietnam War, the passage of Roe v Wade, and today’s groups have waded much more into foreign affairs.

Compared with the budgets of the corporate lobbyists, who make up the vast majority of Hill advocates, that of the religious groups is small. But veterans say they have a particular clout that can wield influence at unexpected times.

“We don’t make endorsements, we don’t give campaign contributions, we don’t even write thank you notes. No one is going on a golfing vacation in Scotland with us. But we have assets others don’t — a consistent set of principles,” said John Carr, a policy advocate for the Catholic bishops, who first came to the Hill in the 1970s. “I think there is a grudging respect for consistency, even with people who disagree with us.”

The Moral Majority, once one of the nation’s largest advocacy groups with millions of members, closed its Washington operations in the late 1980s as religious conservatives became more confident that their values were being heard. The study noted that the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, also eliminated its D.C. office “due to declining revenues.”


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