A look at America’s Sikh advocacy organizations

Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C., by religious tradition (source: pewforum.org)

Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C., by religious tradition (source: pewforum.org)

A recent study called “Lobbying for the Faithful” from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life provided a survey of religious advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C.:

The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly fivefold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today. These groups collectively employ at least 1,000 people in the greater Washington area and spend at least $350 million a year on efforts to influence national public policy.

Among these groups, the Pew Forum provided information about the three larger Sikh American organizations located in the Washington, D.C. area (in the “Other religion” segment, which includes groups representing Baha’i, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Scientology, Unitarian Universalist faiths). The Sikh American groups reviewed by Pew Forum make up just over 1% of all advocacy groups in the survey.

The Sikh American organizations (with 2009 annual advocacy expenditures) in the study are:

Note that this study focuses on expenditures for advocacy work (and does not include expenses for legal or other types of efforts). While expenditures on advocacy by Sikh organizations has increased, compared to the total spent by all advocacy groups, the amount spent on advocacy for Sikh issues is a drop in the bucket.

According to the report, these statistics alone may not be a reliable indicator of efficacy of the organizations:

For instance, a single, highly active, well-staffed and well-funded organization may offer better representation than a number of smaller, less active or less well-funded groups. In addition, comparisons between the size of a religious tradition and the number of advocacy groups that come out of that tradition do not take into account interfaith groups and coalitions, which make up a quarter of the religious advocacy groups in Washington. Nor do the comparisons take into account the role of advocacy organizations based outside of Washington.

In terms of advocacy work, my opinion is that the Sikh American organizations are performing admirably, but given the numerous other voices that are vying for attention in the Washington, D.C. area, the Sikh organizations could use more support.

The full “Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C.” report is available on the Pew Forum website.


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