The Lord's Lobbyists: Reaching Across the Aisle (Part 3)

Read Part 2 of this series: Common God But Uncommon Ground

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    (Photo: The United Methodist Church)
    The anti-torture banner faces the U.S. Capitol, and is located between the Supreme Court Building and the Hart Senate Office Building.
By Brendan Giusti, Christian Post Reporter
December 6, 2011|12:02 pm

Faith-based lobbying in Washington, D.C., is a fragmented industry, despite organizations spending nearly $400 million on efforts to influence the nation’s leaders.

Although the number of lobbyists has tripled since 1970, geographic, political and denominational differences have rendered religious-based lobbying less effective as in previous years.

But as the religious landscape of the U.S. becomes more demassified, broad-based coalitions are finding enormous success in the capital.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) works with a message that has broad appeal across the nation and support from leaders in the country’s major religious, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

NRCAT Executive Director the Rev. Richard Killmer said the broad coalition of religious leaders is a significant reason for the group’s ability to generate support despite vast differences in communities from state to state.

“Sure there’s regional differences, but that’s why the religious community has a huge advantage,” Killmer told The Christian Post. “We can talk a language that’s understood in all 50 states.”

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NRCAT uses the support to energize the moral base of the country to stop torture, as well as fight against solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and other forms of torture previously in the margins of the national debate.

“It’s really very clear to all faiths that I’m familiar with that torture is always wrong,” Killmer told CP.

That broad statement helps the group fight against torture from Maine to California.

“For us this is what we’re doing, the work of our religions. What’s neat about that is we come from different ones,” Killmer told CP.

But it is the broad secular support for the ban on torture and other related issues that some policy analysts say is responsible for the group’s success.

“Everyone who is a believer is sectarian,” David Bositis, Senior Political Analysts at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, told CP.

"Everyone who has a religious faith is a sectarian and they have their own unique beliefs,” Bositis said.

But it is the broad support for a ban on state-sponsored torture that has, in part, led to many of the successes of NRCAT.

Because of the broad spectrum involved in the coalition, no one group is attempting to force a particular set of beliefs on people across the nation.

“There’s a difference between a particularly sectarian point of view being imposed…and a faith-based concern for particular issues that enjoys more universal support,” Bositis told CP.

That widespread appeal has helped the NRCAT achieve some remarkable successes in its quest to squelch torture and its derivatives.

The group played an instrumental role in getting President Barack Obama to issue an executive order halting state-sponsored torture. NRCAT also helped get legislation passed that requires the U.S. Department of Defense to video tape interrogations.

The lobbying efforts also have targeted local communities.

NRCAT played a crucial role in getting the Maine Department of Corrections to reduce the amount of solitary confinement prisoners in the state’s system were subjected to by 70 percent. And it was because religious leaders brought a moral voice to Washington D.C and statehouses, Killmer said.

“What this is about is policy being debated in the public square,” Killmer told CP. “We are primarily people of faith and that’s our major message. And that message is heard.”

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