The Pew Forum released a new study that shows religious organizations spend nearly $400 million a year on lobbying legislators in Washington, a massive increase over the last 40 years.
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. 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.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; that’s what the First Amendment means when it says that we have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Religious organizations can advocate for policies along with everyone else. But it does underscore the need to balance that off. Very few groups in DC work on behalf of secular Americans, and they aren’t anywhere near as well-funded as religious groups.