Report tracks explosion of religious lobbying in Washington
A new report finds that religious groups engaged in lobbying or advocacy around Washington employ at least 1,000 people.
November 22nd, 2011
12:29 PM ET

Report tracks explosion of religious lobbying in Washington

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Lobbying and advocacy by religious groups in Washington have exploded in recent decades, increasing fivefold since 1970 to become a nearly $400 million industry, a new Pew report finds.

More than 200 groups are doing faith-related lobbying and advocacy in the nation’s capital, compared to fewer than 40 in 1970, according to the report. Put together, the groups employ at least 1,000 people.

The report, released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that religious groups spend $390 million a year to influence U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

“About one-in-five religious advocacy organizations in Washington have a Roman Catholic perspective (19%) and a similar proportion is evangelical Protestant in outlook (18%), while 12% are Jewish and 8% are mainline Protestant,” according to the report, called "Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C."

“But many smaller U.S. religious groups, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, also have established advocacy organizations in the Washington area,” the report said.

The number of Muslim groups engaged in lobbying and advocacy in Washington (17) is about the same as the number of mainline Protestant groups engaged in such work (16).

The report said that the most common domestic issues for religious groups are:

- The relationship between church and state;

- Civil rights and liberties for religious and other minorities;

- Bioethics and life issues, including abortion, capital punishment and end-of-life issues;

- Family/marriage issues, including definition of marriage, domestic violence and fatherhood initiatives.

The top international issues for religious groups are religious freedom, human rights, debt relief and other economic issues, and the promotion of peace and democracy, the report found.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Foreign policy • Politics

soundoff (744 Responses)
  1. Annatala

    Dear Lord, please protect me from Your followers.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • rad666

      "Lobbying and advocacy by religious groups in Washington have exploded in recent decades" - Pushing their agenda with tax free money.

      November 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Tom

      @rad666 – You make an excellent point! Tax free dollars influencing our government. Lobbyists are corrupt as it is, let alone this new form of parasite.

      November 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  2. Mary

    Baha'i's don't donate mony for political campaign's. We will write to our elected officals in the area that we live in to encourage action and apeal to the UN for human rights violations but we DO NOT participate in partisan politics.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  3. ginx

    If they want to sway Washington with lobbyists then they need to be taxed. Nothing scares me more then making decisions based on religion. They all believe the rapture will be soon so they don't care about consequences for future generations.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • ChristianTSW

      Christ told his disciples that not even he knew the time when he would return. So not all believe the rapture will occur soon, and your assumption that people of faith do not care about future generations is completely false. Devout Christians are some of the most fiscally responsible people in the world. That's not to say there aren't people who are irresponsible, but if they follow Christ's teachings then you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps you should learn a little about what we believe before you criticize.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • ibivibiv

      I agree on the tax free status. Once they participate in politics they should lose their tax free status immediately.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      What you don't understand is that churches do not directly lobby washington. It is done through christian political organizations such as Focus on the Family Action and FRC Action, and those groups are NOT tax exempt.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  4. matt

    Why are there no Atheist lobbyists? Atheists outnumber Jewish people...

    November 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • humbug

      Athiests are broke. Jews are rich.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • MumsToo

      Atheists don't get Faith Based Initiatives

      November 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • isolate

      Atheists are not, as a rule, herd animals. Each atheist comes independently to the conclusion that the need for a god behind the scenes running everything is absurd. Believers by nature are herd animals who need to be among people who believe the same things as they do. It's the reason there are so many different Christian sects: people seek out those who want to believe in a common story and reject everyone who thinks differently. The Westboro Baptist Church loonies are a good example: according to their teachings, only a handful of people will be in their version of Heaven– only WBC members, of course....

      November 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • MIke

      200 groups and 400 million in lobbying compared to 12,941 groups spending 3.5 billion in 2010. In other words, religious groups make up 1.5% of the lobbyists and spend 1.1% of the money. Nothing but an attack to make religious organizations look bad, ignoring the fact that the amount of money spent on lobbying in the last 40 years has gone up the same amount.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      @MIke – Good point.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  5. SuZieCoyote

    Tax any organization that employs lobbyists. Their God(s) shouldn't get a free ride on my back, in my womb, my genitals or any other of their favored modes of transportation.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Brian

      Ooooh Where is a LIKE button when you need one? 🙂

      November 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Cary

      If we tax them they will then have a legal right to lobby. I say kickem out!

      November 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • QS

      I'd say it's about time to revisit this whole "freedom of religion" thing! I have no problem with people of faith, but religion is nothing more than another corporation taking advantage of people to make money.

      If people insist on allowing churches to remian in existence, I agree with many of the comments regarding taxation.

      I also agree with several comments that it's about time we had a strong Atheism lobby too.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  6. Question Everything

    It's all about the benjamins, folks. Always has been. These religious leaders, most of whom own multiple cars, enjoy lavish vacations and reside in upscale addresses, are just glorified used car salesman. Plain and simple. Except their product is fear and represent, ultimately, a lemon.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  7. Mike Parks

    These people are on a power trip even though their congregations continue to shrink. So, they are actually representing less people. Once again sounds like the wants of the few are trying to be pushed on the many.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  8. T3chsupport

    They can lobby when they can pay taxes. Stop giving these schemers a free ride!

    November 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      Lobbyist groups DO pay taxes. Churches do not directly lobby washington. It is done buy TAXED groups such as FRC Action or Focus on the Family Action.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  9. cathstar

    Since religious groups should be concerned with the needs of people, why don't they spend the $400 million in lobbying funds on feeding the hungry instead? There are about 50 million people starving in this country.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  10. Voltairine

    See, "Religulous", and grow up America; the boogeyman in the clouds is a lie.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  11. MumsToo

    If religious groups want to be involved in politics... PAY TAXES

    November 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Mel

      Excellent idea !!!!

      November 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      They do. Churches don't pay taxes, but political action groups such as FRC Action that lobby for religious values DO pay taxes.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  12. Mike Parks

    Keep your religion out of MY Government! I'm so tired of Hypocrits aren't you? If you don't want to pay taxes... then you don't get to create and influence policy that affects MY LIFE!! Plain and Simple!! Seperation of CHURCH and STATE is there for a reason!!

    November 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  13. Brett

    Tax the Churches.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  14. Hoss

    Not one of these lobbyist groups is lobbying to get rid of payoffs to government officials for passing laws favorable to special interest groups.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • MumsToo

      Huh... imagine that. Instead they lobby to take away my rights.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  15. Alex

    "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"

    November 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  16. mylifemyway

    Another reason to tax them already! Out of all the points concerned, only civil rights should be their issue. The other concerns have to do with taking away the rights of people who do not think as they do...

    November 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Leslie

      Mylifemyway, I agree with you!!!!!!!!!

      November 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  17. William Demuth

    It is such a shame to be forced to realize my beloved country is following such a tragic path.

    Our only REAL enemy lies within!

    Tax the churches NOW!

    November 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Leslie

      I second that!!!

      November 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • foxfire

      I agree with you 100%..it is disgraceful.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  18. ThinkForYourself

    Glad to see that, instead of spending money helping others, the RCC and others would rather see their money going to suppress others' rights.

    November 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  19. hippypoet

    ok so it seems that our entire law making body is completely insane! wheres the news story?

    November 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  20. Help

    Mention Faith and CNN gets its bout of Panic attacks..

    November 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Brian

      I would be concerned, looks like the sharia law seekers have mustered a strong lobby for themselves...

      November 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Thats because your faith is another mans fear.

      Leave religion at home with all of your other filthy habits

      November 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Andy S

      They get the panic attacks only when you mention the God of the Bible.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Andy S

      Which God of the Bible?

      The pre or post Jesus Yahveh? Leviathan? The Holy Spirit? The mortal Jesus? The risen Jesus?

      For a cult that claims monotheisim, you guys shure do have lots of Gods!

      November 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.