Religious lobbying in D.C. has quintupled since 1970


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

This is the finding of a new study, “Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C.,” recently released by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. It examines a total of 212 religion-related advocacy groups operating in the nation’s capital.

Religious 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.

Of these groups, 19 percent have a Roman Catholic perspective, 18 percent are evangelical Protestant, 12 percent are Jewish and 8 percent are mainline Protestant. Smaller U.S. religious groups do advocacy, too, the largest being Muslims at 8 percent. The largest category is interreligious: One-quarter of the groups studied either represent multiple faiths or advocate on religious issues without representing a specific religion.

The issue agendas of religious advocacy groups touch on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy concerns. On the domestic front, the most commonly addressed issues are the relationship between church and state, the defense of civil rights and liberties for religious and other minorities, bioethics and life issues (such as abortion, capital punishment and end-of-life issues) and family/marriage issues (such as the definition of marriage, domestic violence and fatherhood initiatives).

Internationally, the most commonly addressed concerns are human rights, debt relief and other economic issues, and the promotion of peace and democracy. About one-fifth of the groups deal with religious freedom in particular countries or worldwide.