WAMU 88.5 : Interfaith Voices

Pew Study Shows Rise In Religious Lobbying

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When it comes to lobbying and advocacy in Washington, D.C., religious groups are increasingly a part of the mix. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a new report on these groups. It's called "Lobbying for the Faithful." Maureen Fiedler of Interfaith Voices interviewed the lead researcher on the study, Allen Hertzke, about its finding.

Your study says that religious advocacy groups have increased about five-fold since 1970. What has spurred this increase?
That was one of the striking findings of this study. There are a number of factors. One is the growing pluralism of the American religious landscape is reflected in Washington advocacy. Every religious community feels it must have a Washington office to represent its concerns.

Another factor is the growth in the role of government, which reaches into nearly every nook and cranny of life both here and around the world. Religious groups feel they have to monitor what government is doing, and they also have to bring their prophetic voices to public policy.

Also, some of the social and cultural issues have created a sense of concern amongst a lot of religious people and have drawn them into politics in a way that they were not before.

Can you name some of the issues that religious groups take on?
What's really striking is the breadth of the issue agenda. Religious groups are taking on international issues almost equally with domestic issues. We're talking about issues of international justice, human rights, poverty, development, trade, peacemaking and cultural issues. Some groups are even lobbying on the definition of marriage at the United Nations.

Domestically, the issue agenda encompasses nearly the entire domestic agenda. It includes almost everything -- environment, healthcare, defense policy, education, church-state relations, human rights and civil liberties. Religious communities are very involved with all these issues.

A lot of people think of lobbying as courting influence with money -- buying votes. Do religious groups ever engage in that kind of nefarious activity?
A few religious organizations do have Political Action Committees, and do make contributions to candidates. The vast majority do not. In fact, the vast majority of religious leaders in Washington would vehemently disagree with that strategy. Many leaders would say that engaging in the grubbier aspects of politics are not what they want to be about.

That was Allen Hertzke -- the lead researcher on a new report from the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life about religious lobbying in Washington. He was speaking with Interfaith Voices host Maureen Fiedler. You can hear an extended interview with Hertzke during Interfaith Voices this Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. on here WAMU 885.

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