Date of Graduation

5-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

J. Brinck Kerr

Committee Member

Lori Holyfield

Second Committee Member

William Miller

Keywords

Advocacy, Denomination, Lobbying, Protestant, Public Policy, United States Congress

Abstract

A number of mainline Protestant denominations engage in direct lobbying and grassroots advocacy efforts with Congress on behalf of the poor and other marginalized groups. This study explores the work of three specific denominations the Presbyterian Church [PC(USA)], the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the United Methodist Church (UMC), as religious special interests. Specifically, the study explores how they facilitated their policy agendas on Capitol Hill during the 110th Congress (2007-2008). This question is answered primarily through interviews with and surveys of the professional staff engaged in this work during that session. Results indicate that each denomination works extensively through denominational and coalition groups, together with grassroots constituencies, to further the policy agenda of each. Drawing on the prophetic strand of the Christian tradition and speaking with its moral authority are unique elements of mainline Protestant denominations as interest groups. Though each has its particular history, theology and polity, all three struggle with common concerns including strained financial resources, constraints imposed by denominational bureaucracy and factionalism, and a lack of visibility and leveraging power in the midst of other more powerful and well-financed interest groups. The study concludes with possibilities for strengthening the effectiveness of denominational lobbying efforts and recommendations for further research.

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