In D.C. A report issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that religious advocacy groups in the nation’s capital are growing and that most of the largest organizations are affiliated with the Religious Right or the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The November report, “Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C.,” surveyed more than 200 groups that engage in advocacy and/or lobbying in the nation’s capital. It found explosive growth in such groups, noting that the number of these organizations jumped from 67 in 1970 to 212 today.
Furthermore, the groups raise and spend significant sums of money. One of the largest religious advocacy organizations in Washington, for example, is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has an annual budget of $26.6 million.
Other top spenders include the Family Research Council ($14.2 million), Concerned Women for America ($12.5 million), the National Right to Life Committee ($11.3 million) and Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink ($10.8 million).
Collectively, the 212 groups surveyed raise and spend $390 million a year.
Of the top 15 groups listed, 10 are Religious Right organizations or take stands in alignment with the Catholic hierarchy. Groups that failed to make the top 15 but that still have considerable budgets include the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission ($3.2 million), the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty ($2.2 million) and the Eagle Forum ($2.2 million).
While many of the groups listed are Christian, the report shows growth in the number of advocacy organizations affiliated with other religions. The biggest group on the list is the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, which has an annual budget of $87.8 million. The American Jewish Committee is fourth on the list at $13.3 million.
Other groups include the Muslim American Society ($3.9 million), the Muslim Public Affairs Council ($2.9 million) as well as groups representing Sikhs and Hindus.
The reports lists total budget figures for the groups surveyed. Not all of that money is spent on direct lobbying because the organizations advocate for their views in other ways. Still, the report is a good indication that the power of religious lobbies is in no way waning.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, told The Washington Post that the growth of religious lobbying groups has been nothing short of remarkable.
“Religious lobbyists used to be like subsistence farmers, and now it’s like agribusiness,” said Lynn.
In an article for the popular progressive website Alternet, Church & State Assistant Editor Rob Boston noted that Religious Right organizations can hardly claim to have no influence when so many of D.C.’s top religious lobbyists are in their camp.
“Right-wing religious groups may claim persecution, but the numbers tell a different story,” wrote Boston. “If you doubt this, just spend a day shadowing their employees in Congress, where, increasingly, they are greeted with warm smiles and open arms.”
The full report is available online at www.pewforum.org.