Religious groups as interest groups : The United States Catholic bishops in the welfare reform debate of 1995-1996 and the health care reform debate of 2009-2010
The United States has a long history of religious influence on public policy: the anti-slavery movement, progressivism, prohibition, civil rights, abortion, school vouchers, school prayer and nuclear disarmament are all issues that have involved religion and religious groups in policymaking. In recent decades, the number of religious interest groups (as well as interest groups in general) has greatly expanded, but the role that the religious organizations play as interest groups in the policy arena has received relatively little attention. How are they similar to and different from other interest groups? What tactics do they use? How successful are they? Under what conditions is success or failure more likely? This article examines Roman Catholic religious groups as interest groups in the congressional policymaking process. First, it places Catholic interest groups in the context of the interest group literature, and second, it examines Catholic interest groups’ activity in the passage of welfare reform in 1996 and in the passage of health care reform in 2010. In both cases, they played a greater role in context-setting than in actually changing provisions.