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The Lord's Lobbyists: Common God But Uncommon Ground (Part 2)

Read Part 1 of this series: The Lord's Lobbyists: The Dollars and Cents

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By Brendan Giusti, Christian Post Reporter
November 30, 2011|2:25 pm

Faith-based lobbying in Washington D.C., is a nearly $400 million per year industry and the number of faith-based lobbyists in the nation's capital has tripled since 1970.

Nonetheless, the effectiveness of the religious-interest efforts are questionable, despite the staggering monetary and practician figures.

Experts say it is because of the fragmented nature of religion in the U.S.

"When the religious community in the nation was more homogeneous, less diverse than it is now, religious lobbying was more effective," the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, told The Christian Post.

Those listening to lobbyists are interested in the number of supporters behind a particular point of view.

People lobbying in Washington, D.C., are looking for national solutions, David Bositis, Senior Political Analysts at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, told CP.

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But the value systems and demographics differ greatly across the country, Bositis said.

Massachusetts, for example, has more than 6.5 million residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau statistics. More than 80 percent of the population is white, while just 6.6 percent identified as black.

Mississippi, on the other hand, has slightly less than 3 million residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Slightly less than 60 percent of the population is white, while nearly 40 percent identified as black.

The states differ with religious affiliation as well.

Nearly half of all Massachusetts residents identified as Catholic, according to a recent American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Less than 5 percent of residents were Baptist, and 16 percent identified with no particular religion.

Those number are nearly inverse in Mississippi.

Catholics account for just 5 percent of the population in the southern state. More than half of residents in Mississippi identified as Baptist, while just 7 percent identified with no particular religion.

"The Religious community in the nation tends to be as divided on issues as the political community in the nation." Gaddy said. "That diversity, inevitably, weakens the impact of the lobbying effort because of different points of view claiming the same religion."

The points of most commonality come on service-oriented issues – and in some instances on economic issues, particularly as they relate to poor people, Gaddy said. But disagreements over methodology, delivery systems, taxes and use of tax money can cause a division that can compromise the over all efforts of the lobbying.

"Unfortunately, sometimes even faith-based lobbyists get caught up in the political divides that keep the religious community from having the strongest impact it can have," Gaddy said.

Coalitions of religious-interest groups have been forming to attempt to unify the faith-based voice in Washington D.C.

Recently, an informal inter-faith coalition of religious leaders launched the "Faithful Budget Campaign," which urged members of Congress to keep programs for the nation's poor during the ongoing budget cuts.

Other broad-based coalitions that formed to tackle specific issues include the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Religious Freedom Coalition.

"I think it's interesting right now that we're seeing much broader and diverse coalitions form," Gaddy said.

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