The advent of the new religious institutionalism has brought the relationship between religion and the state to the fore once again. Yet, for all the talk of the appropriateness of religion-state interactions, scholars have yet to examine how it functions. This Article analyzes the critical, yet usually invisible, role of “religious interest groups” — lobby groups representing religious institutions or individuals — in shaping federal legislation. In recent years, religious interest groups have come to dominate political discourse. Groups such as Priests for Life, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and American Jewish Congress have entered the political fray to lobby for legislative change that is reflective of specific religious values. These religious interest groups collectively spend over $350 million every year attempting to entrench religious values into the law. These groups have become the primary mechanism for religious involvement in federal politics, but, surprisingly, the place and role of these groups has yet to be examined by legal scholars.The Article shows that the key features of religious interest groups reflect significant tensions within the emerging project of religious institutionalism. In developing this claim, the Article identifies two benefits claimed to result from religious involvement in politics — protecting religious liberty and enhancing democratic participation — and demonstrates that in fact these benefits are unlikely to result from religious interest group politicking. Instead, the pursuit of religiously bound interests as a legislative end results in the religious interest being pursued as an end in and of itself, consequently imposing significant costs on the values of religious liberty and democracy. Ultimately, the Article claims that when considering the place of religion in the political process, it is incumbent on scholars to consider both the institutional design question of how religious participation in politics is operationalized, as well as take into account both the costs and benefits of that involvement.
Zoe Robinson, Lobbying in the Shadows: Religious Interest Groups in the Legislative Process, 64 Emory L.J. 1041, 1102 (2015)