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New Report on Religious Groups and Political Lobbying

November 22, 2011

Yesterday, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a new study that looks at how there has been an increased in religious groups lobbying Congress and the amount of money they are spending in the process.

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.”

From the graphic below you can see what religious groups are spending the most money to influence domestic and foreign policy.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is significantly ahead of all other religious groups in this report and combined with American Jewish Committee is spending over $100 million on influencing US policy towards Israel and the greater Middle East.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is the second largest source of religious lobbying. The $26 million plus the Catholics spent to lobby Congress has been for a variety of issues, but the top two have been to advocate for anti-abortion laws and anti-marriage equality. In fact, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops just unveiled a new anti-Gay Marriage website.

The third largest religious lobbying group, according to the Pew study, is the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC has a long history of promoting far rights policies such as anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and religion in public life. The FRC, along with Concerned Women for America, the National Right to Life Committee, Home School Legal Defense Association and CitizenLink (an affiliate of Focus on the Family) all are part of the network of religious right groups in the US. Combined these Christian Right groups spent roughly $60 million on influencing national policy in 2009 alone.

This also means that the only liberal or progressive religious group in the top 10 list is Bread for the World. Bread for the World does mostly anti-hunger work around the world with some emphasis on root causes of hunger.

Another important point on the relevance of this new report is that many of the wealthier families in West Michigan, the DeVos, Van Andel and Prince families have all contributed to most of the Christian groups in this top 10 list.  However, we could find no evidence of any local news reporting on this connection as of this posting.

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