Groups collectively spend at least $390 million a year,
but recession seems to have taken a toll on their budgets
Washington, D.C. — 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, according to a new study on religious advocacy
groups released today by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion &
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.
are among the key findings of Lobbying
for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C.,which
examines a total of 212 religion-related advocacy groups operating in the nation’s
Other major findings include:
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. But many
smaller U.S. religious groups, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims
and Sikhs, also have established advocacy organizations in the Washington area.
In fact, the number of Muslim groups (17) is about the same as the number of
mainline Protestant groups (16). And the largest category today is
interreligious: One-quarter of the groups studied (54) either represent
multiple faiths or advocate on religious issues without representing a specific
median annual advocacy expenditures by the 131 groups for which recent (2008 or
2009) financial data were available was nearly $1 million. More than one-third
of the groups (46 groups, or 35%) reported annual advocacy expenditures between
$1 million and $5 million per year, while about one-in-ten (18 groups, or 14%)
reported spending more than $5 million a year.
recession in the U.S. economy from late 2007 to mid-2009 seems to have taken a
toll on the budgets of many religion-related advocacy organizations. Of the 104
groups for which data on expenditures in both 2008 and 2009 were available, 56
reported that their advocacy spending was lower in 2009 than it had been in
2008. The average decline for the 56 groups was about $500,000. In the same
period, 48 groups reported that their advocacy spending rose, with the average
increase being about $300,000. Overall among the 104 groups, there was a net
drop of about $14 million in total advocacy expenditures during this period.
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).
the most commonly addressed concerns are human rights, debt relief and other
economic issues, and the promotion of peace and democracy. About one-in-five
groups (21%) deal with religious freedom in particular countries or worldwide.
than eight-in-ten of the groups say they use targeted or mass emails to
mobilize constituents. More than six-in-ten were using social networking tools
such as Facebook and Twitter in 2009.
than three-quarters (79%) of the groups for which staffing data were available
employ 12 or fewer people in the Washington area. More than half (55%) have
five or fewer employees.
The full report — including a brief history of
religious advocacy in Washington — is available on the Pew Forum’s website. In addition, an online directoryincludes profiles of the 212
religious advocacy groups in the study, as well as excerpts from their mission
statements and financial data, where available.
The Pew Research
Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic
analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and
public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based
Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, the Pew Forum
does not take positions on any of the issues it covers or on policy debates.