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. stormy miller

    lobbying by churches should be ILLEGAL. churches do not pay taxes. if they want a voice in government then let them pay taxes. religion has NO PLACE in politics. they should keep their opinions in church NOT on capitol hill.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • madmadius

      Amen to that brother.

      I will fight for anothers right to practice their faith; but not at the expense of my liberty to have no faith.

      November 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  2. End The Tax Breaks for Churches

    Sounds like it is high time to start taxing religious establishments!!

    November 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  3. Dave

    Why is this not illegal? No religion or person working on any religions behalf should be able to lobby our government for anything. Seperation of church and state is an extremely important part of our country and once you have religious people making the important policy decisions the U.S. is guaranteed to fail. No true religious person can effectively lead a country because their religious beliefs will ALWAYS get in the way and become a negative impedence on rational thinking.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  4. Sal

    This is just one more reason why I hate religion and religious freaks! We don't need a government filled with a bunch of religious freak politicians! 

    November 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Natalie

      Religious Freaks are ruining this country.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  5. AntiEstablishment

    Religion + Politicians = End of Days

    November 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • james

      'The Christian Party' is now running Germany – Angela Merkhel is one of the most respected leaders in the world, and Germany is doing extremely well, they are the envy of the world.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Answer


      That is a stupid correlation. Why don't you look up the laws and proposals that a good government can enact instead? Is it really just that religion in party can do that? Or is it fact that they listen to the WANTS and NEEDS of a populace and act accordingly?

      Blind fanatics always look at the image and never the facts nor the deeds. Your view is just an oversimplification of your NEED to support your religious dogma. You solely look to anything that has a religious label and you attach "good job" to it. That is your life and all you can see.

      There is merit in a political religious party if they govern properly. Consider that you twit.

      November 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  6. Hoofleau

    Any form of lobbying should be illegal. And any politician that subscribes to lobbying should be expelled from office permanently. Keep religion out of politics. It has no place there.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  7. tONY

    so wait, let me get this straight. Religious groups pay no taxes, and we are suppose to have separation from church and state, BUT yet religious lobbying is a $400mil industry.

    What a bunch of hypocrites. This is wrong. No religious group should have and say in what our government does. Only the Civil Liberties groups should be active in our freedom of speech/religion which represents ALL OF US, no one should get special favors based on religion.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Hoofleau

      I agree.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  8. Mahna Mahna

    All lobbying should be illegal. I just can't believe that this level of corruption is present in the US - it is actually worse than the kind of corruption in other countries because it's legal. People should refuse to vote for any candidate until one of them signs a pledge that they will eliminate this abomination. We don't need lobbyists telling people how to live, what to feed our kids, what is and isn't a vegetable, what is good for you and what we can have available for school lunches, among other things. It's frightening that lobbyists, who don't give a damn about people and only care about the interests of the parties they represent such as the tobacco, meat, soy, corn, milk industry and every possible religious group out there that can afford a lobbyist, end up controlling every aspect of our government - which completely nullifies the power of the people since our vote means nothing. You vote for certain people on the basis of their platform, but end up with everything you don't want because they give into lobbyists. How about occupy Congress. Maybe they should declare lobbyists a vegetable so that they lose all of their rights as human beings. Then they'll just be an invasive plant species.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    That's it for me. I can't read the crap on this blog anymore!

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

      This country was founded by devout religious people. They came here for that purpose, so I guess it is you who should be leaving.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • stormy miller

      this country was NOT founded by religous people. i wish religion would stop continuing this LIE. most of the founding father detested religion. and as they should have. religion has done nothing but cause pain and suffering for thousands of years. MAKE LOBBYING BY CHURCHES ILLEGAL OR TAX THE MOTHER F$#@^%$

      November 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • HellBent

      This country was not founded by puritans or separatists. Our founding fathers believed strongly in the separation of church and state. Jefferson even rewrote the bible to take out all of the supernatural hocus pocus. Try picking up a history book sometime.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      I wonder what Christians would say if Muslims successfully lobby for Sharia Law?

      November 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Natalie

      James, they came for freedom of religion or not to practice religion. Get a clue.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  10. Tim Hurst

    This is the beginning of the end for America if the religous right takes over. Our own Amerikan Taliban

    November 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  11. jsl123

    It's way past time to start taxing these huge prayer factories. They are living off of us!

    November 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  12. Cary

    This is all kinds of wrong!!!
    Do not tax them, then they will have a legal right to stick there nose were it should not be.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  13. Chris

    Turns out none of those "issues" they are lobbying for do anybody a bit of good. In fact, outlawing abortion would only hurt our fragile economy (by way of overburdening families that shouldn't be having children). Idiocy. Pure, unadulterated idiocy. What I don't get is why the group of people that believe men can only be judged by god spend so much time trying to control others..... Mindboggling. Where does it say that if you get an abortion, I also have to? Let them do what they want, secure in your knowledge that god will punish them. How is this a problem?

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

      Well said Chris!

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

      It becomes a problem when they want the taxpayer to pay for it. You can't have it both ways. The church just needs to be separate from the rest of you. We should just give you what you ask for. You will not survive but we will. Glory be to God!!

      November 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • LP

      While individual Xian citizens may really wish for the outlawing of abortion, political operatives on the radical right will never go so far as to outlaw it completely. It provides them with too much political fodder with which to stir up the masses. That said, it certainly is annoying to keep having the argument year in and year out.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • ak2k

      All good points, and not to mention that if abortion is made illegal, it will only drive it to the black market putting these desperate women in very dangerous situations.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • sassypants

      LP – that is a lie.. they just had the choice to pass abortion legislation in Mississippi but they chose not to.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • sassypants

      ak2k – That is another lie – the morning after pill and birth control... hello?

      November 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • sassypants

      lets not forget adoption and abstinence

      November 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Natalie

      Sassypants, My body MY choice. Stop trying to but your nose in others business and worry about fixing your own crappy life. can't stand losers who can't mind their own business. oh and by the way, with a name like sassypants you need to come out of the closet but it's hard when you religious freaks are so intollerant

      November 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Doc M

      Beautfully stated! And those of you who think tax payers are paying for abortions, where do you get your facts? Actually, I'd gladly subisidize abortions w/my tax money; at least they wouldn't need lifetime welfare and medical care on our tax money!

      November 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Ed

      " human rights, debt relief and other economic issues, and the promotion of peace and democracy" from the article so you're are saying these things don't do any good for anybody?

      November 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @sassypants: Try viewing this another way...the morning after pill only works if the lady can get her hands on it (the bill that was not passed that you mentioned was also trying to outlaw this b/c it causes abortion in a less harsh way); the pill only works if the lady can afford/get it or even if she can take it; adoption is not an easy choice and many people would not necessarily have the resources to know who to turn to for help in this situation; abstinence has a proven failure rate-we are human (look at all those kids who took the pledge and had it fail). Abortion will occur in backyard clinics (if they can be called that)...this brings on further risk of infection; botched abortions; the potential of death for the woman involved...in turn leading to a greater drain on an already stressed healthcare system. Abortion is only legal to the end of the first trimester, at which point there needs to be a serious medical reason for it to be performed. People don't need to be told not to do things that come naturally, they need to be guided and helped to prevent more unwanted children from being born into an already over populated world. Taking away a woman's right to control her body is oppression and is not what the country is about.
      Before telling someone they are lying, verify your facts or at least step in to the shoes of someone who has been in that position.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  14. SoJax

    How is it that tax free organizations are allowed to lobby? Good Lord, this nation is doomed. Whats next, masses of foreigners lobbying congress to change foreign policy? Or are they already doing that too?

    November 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • steven harnack

      Heck, the Bush Supreme Court gave tax-exempt groups the right to spend as much money as they can get their hands on to influence elections, and they don't even have to say where the money came from, China,Saudi Arabia, or where ever.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  15. jsl123

    Keep your religion to yourself. Tell me what you will do for the USA if you are elected, not what you will do for your church!

    November 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  16. Linda Operle

    What happended to separation of church & state? It's there for a reason. Lobbying in general should be banned. Let the citizens speak for themselves I don't need anyone speaking for me I just need congress to LISTEN!

    November 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • ak2k

      Here here!!

      November 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  17. JJC

    @matt: There ARE athiest lobbyists groups. Look it up, get involved. Or soon you may want to get a cure for a disease for you or your child only to find out that the religious have made the scientific breakthrough illegal. They don't live and let live. They only know how to impose their ideas on others. All talibans should be suppressed.

    November 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Tim Hurst

      yeah but they have to pay taxes and so should the Catholic and Southern baptist sissys!

      November 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  18. bao

    If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and ra pes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. Deuteronomy 22:28-29

    And you want these people spending almost half a billion a year on lobbying congress?

    November 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  19. We know the truth...

    Yet another reason why lobbying needs to be banned...

    November 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  20. ProperVillain

    I'm a Christian and even I think religious lobbying should be illegal. I feel that way about all lobbying but I think it gets really scary when you have these wide eyed "End Times" fanatics influencing foreign policy and trying to pull us back in to the dark ages.

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

      Scary sh!t when those vultures start circling.

      November 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
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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.