Faith and religion play a major role in both global and domestic politics. From chaos in the Middle East to grumblings between U.S. political leaders and people of faith -- religion plays a major role in current events.
A new report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life further highlights this point, as it found a major growth in lobbying for religious issues over the past few decades.
The report, released on Monday, claims that the number of groups engaging in advocacy on faith issues jumped from 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today -- a five-fold increase. The industry is worth $390 million and it employs 1,000 staffers who cover 300 issues.
While there are many who would like to see a greater separation between faith and politics, it seems the opposite movement is underway. Members of the evangelical right and the evangelical left join members of other faiths in attempting to influence the government. The goal? To reinforce the issues they hold theologically dear. Of course, along with the growth of politically-interested faith groups comes the obvious growth in prominence of lobbying.
Considering America's religious breakdown, it's no surprise that Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jewish groups make up 58 percent of the total religious advocacy observed in the Pew study.
The Hill has more regarding the issues and activities that these religious groups partake in:
On the domestic front, the most frequently lobbied issues include “the relationship between church and state, the defense of civil rights … [and] bioethics and life issues (such as abortion, capital punishment and end-of-life issues),” among others.
“Human rights, debt relief and other economic issues, and the promotion of peace and democracy” top the list of international issues on which the groups lobby.
Aside from the issues they tackle, intriguing information can be found in terms of the methods of their communication and engagement. According to the report, more than 90 percent of the groups that completed a questionnaire about their activities claim that informing the public and constituents is among their strategies. The study reads:
And about four-in-ten of the groups that filled out the questionnaire (41%) report that educating constituents on issues – rather than directly approaching policymakers - is the activity they engage in most often. The next most-cited strategy is meeting with officials, which 15% of the groups list as their most frequent activity.
Politico notes the study's focus upon the impact of the economic downturn, which reflects a tougher landscape for carrying out religious lobbying over the past few years:
Of the 104 groups for which expenditure data were available for 2008 and 2009, 56 of them said their spending was lower in 2009 than in the previous year, with an average decline in spending of about $500,000. The 104 groups altogether saw a net drop in spending of about $14 million during the two-year period.
The Pew study was conducted from 2008 until 2010. Director Luis Lugo and associate director of research Alan Cooperman have cautioned that the exact number of faith-based lobbyists is tough to determine. Many of these individuals don't have a permanent office nor do they have a staff in Washington, which makes tracking them a bit more tedious.
Additionally, tracking the influence that these groups have is also a challenge. Their activities, alone, don't indicate any levels of success or failure and studies examining these themes are apparently not plentiful.
You can read the full study here.
(H/T: The Hill)