Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Pew Report: Lobbying for the Faithful

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released a report entitled Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington D.C. The report provides an overview of religious lobbying and religion-related advocacy groups in the U.S., with sobering information about Religious Right advocacy and lobbying.

The Pew Forum found that the number of organizations engaged in religion-related advocacy or religious lobbying in the nation's capitol has exploded in the past 40 years, from less than 40 groups in 1970 to over 200 now. Almost two-thirds (64%) of groups in the study involve themselves in both domestic and foreign issues. Groups commonly involved themselves in human rights (56%), poverty and economic issues (49%), peace and democracy (44%), and tolerance/interfaith dialogue (28%), among other issues.

Catholic (18%), evangelical Protestant (18%) and mainline Protestant (8%) organizations make up a sizable percentage of religious lobbying groups, suggesting a substantial Christian presence among such groups. Interestingly, roughly one-forth of the groups in the study either represented multiple faiths or advocated for religious issues without subscribing to a specific religion.

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing data in the Pew report is its list of the organizations with the greatest advocacy expenditures. The report estimates that the combined annual expenditures of religious lobbying and advocacy groups is over $390 million. However, most of the the groups that expend more than $10 million a year are prominent Religious Right organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (over $26 million in 2009), the Family Research Council (over $14 million in 2008), Concerned Women for America (over $12 million in 2009), the National Right to Life Committee (over $11 million in 2009), the Home School Legal Defense Association (over $11 million in 2009), and Focus on the Family affiliate CitizenLink (over $10 million in 2009). Several of these groups loudly oppose LGBT rights and/or abortion rights, and the Family Research Council has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The fact that several prominent Religious Right organizations are among the most high-spending religious advocacy and lobbying groups should give us pause. Lest we underestimate the Religious Right or dismiss Religious Right organizations as fringe voices, we must remember that they are well-funded and active in Washington D.C. The data above should serve as a reminder that pro-LGBT, pro-choice, and church-state separation activism is highly important, given that we face well-funded and well-organized challengers.*

To read an executive summary of Lobbying for the Faithful, click here. For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Mother Jones: Study: K Street Is Holy Place

Equality Matters: Anti-LGBT Organizations, Hate Groups Ramped Up Spending in 2009

Open Secrets: Religious Lobby on the Rise

* It is not my intent to portray all religious advocacy and lobbying groups as negative. Many such groups do positive work in the world, which should be commended. It is Religious Right organizations that oppose LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and church-state separation that are my concern here.


  1. It would be interesting to know how much of that $390 million comes from churches whose tax-exempt status requires them not to be involved in political lobbying.

  2. This is good information, Ahab. I had no idea. More evidence that at least some of these well-funded and politically active groups should lose their tax-exempt status.

  3. Without trying to tap into the conspiracy theorist vibe here, it may be interesting to consider that the ~1/4 multi-faith/non-specific faith organizations can serve as umbrella groups which shield particular religious groups from close scrutiny, like the Mormon church did with an interfaith group regarding Proposition 8 in California.

  4. Infidel753 -- I'd love to know the answer to that question.

    Cognitive Dissenter -- I didn't know much of this either. I'm glad the report was well-publicized.

  5. Wise Fool -- Good observation. I'm sure it happens quite a bit.

  6. This post summarizes what bothers (terrifies?) me about modern American conservatism. The lunatic fringe is no longer on the fringe. It is dead center and speading.

    Thanks--this is great information to have.

  7. Michelle -- You're welcome. I too am worried about the far right moving closer to the mainstream, if it's not there already.


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