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Religion-related lobby groups thrive in Washington

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The number of religion-related lobbying groups in Washington has grown five-fold in the past 40 years, with their spending reaching almost $400 million annually, a study showed on Monday.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life study identified 212 groups, up from 158 a decade ago and 40 in 1970.

Their collective budgets for lobbing efforts in Washington were estimated at $390 million a year. For 131 of the groups for which data could be obtained, median spending was $890,000 in 2009, down from $970,000 the year before.

Forty groups accounted for the bulk of the spending, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which spent nearly $88 million in 2008, the last year for which data was provided.

Also in 2008, the Family Research Council spent $14 million and the American Jewish Committee $13 million.

In 2009, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spent $27 million, Concerned Women for America $13 million, Bread for the World $11 million, the National Right to Life Committee $11 million and the Home School Legal Defense Association $11 million.

Issues the various groups lobbied on included support of Israel, church-state issues, and religious rights.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life said other topics were bioethics, abortion, capital punishment, and end-of-life and family-marriage issues. Many of the groups also addressed international issues such as poverty.

(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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