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.

A study published Nov. 21 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life examined 212 religion-related advocacy groups operating in the nation’s capital. 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.

Numerous organizations representing the interests of individual members on particular issues — such as abortion and hunger — have entered the arena alongside groups representing institutions. These institutions have included religious schools and colleges, as well as groups representing denominations and religious traditions. Political scientists suggest several possible reasons for the rapid growth of religious lobbying during this period. They cite a general rise in public religious expression — both domestically and globally — as well as a trend toward the institutionalization of political activism in America. The growing reach of the federal government in the realm of economic, environmental and social policy has also drawn religious groups to the nation’s capital. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.