The question of church lobbying in the formation of public policy in the United States continues to evoke lively discussion and vigorous debate within both the communities of faith and the body politic. There are those in America who even question the right of the churches to be involved in political affairs and to assume an advocacy role in the making of public policy. A recent nationwide poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post revealed that most Americans (53 percent) feel that "religious leaders should stay out of politics entirely even if they feel strongly about certain politics issues."
There are those who view the very concept of "lobbying" as somehow less than honorable in the political process. While the term "lobbying" is often used in a pejorative sense as some evil or sinister influence in the political process, lobbying is, in fact, intimately associated with constitutional and democratic government. By dictionary definition, lobbying is the attempt to influence legislation or public policy and/or the promotion of self-interest. In the most fundamental sense, however, lobbying is best understood as the right of petition, a right that was first enunciated in the Magna Charta in 1215. The right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances" found explicit expression in the American Bill of Rights, along with "the free exercise" of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly.
In contrast to totalitarian government, the right of petition is a fundamental tenet of democratic government. As Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes observed in Stromber v. California ( 1931),