Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Dr. F. Ellen Netting


Since the early 1990s, religion and matters of faith and spirituality have become a focal point in numerous arenas beyond the individual and traditionally sacred. With President George W. Bush's White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives of 2001, the Charitable Choice provision of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that preceded it in 1996, and the myriad of legal challenges that followed, matters of religion have become paramount in political discourse regarding social welfare. The viability of faith-based social service provision and the organizations providing the direct services have been the focus of speculation, debate, and a growing amount of research. Few studies, however, have explored the role of faith-based advocacy or lobbying organizations in shifting the social welfare climate, in proposing or opposing policy changes in the social welfare system, or in defining social welfare. Little is empirically known about the organizational dynamics of religious advocacy groups whose attempts at structural influence are, in part, affected by theological positions and religiously-informed values.Considering the dearth of research on such organizations, particularly those that operate on the state level, this study explored faith-based advocacy organizations that seek to influence social policy in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Within an interpretive paradigmatic and theoretical framework that allowed for the exploration of meaning associated with advocacy activities, the inquiry asked the following questions, How do faith-based organizations engage in legislative advocacy in the Commonwealth of Virginia? What meaning do the organizations assign to their advocacy activities? The inquiry's findings, congruent with interpretive research assumptions, are tentative in nature and suggest that while the focal organizations' advocacy activities appear similar to other interest groups, their religious mandates for action distinguish them from their secular counterparts. Interpretations of these mandates significantly influence the organizations' decision-making, their representation of multiple constituencies, and their definitions of success. Unlike previous studies that suggest these organizations distance themselves from insider politics, the religious advocates in the study suggest that fidelity to their mandate means actively participating in the political process while retaining their unique voice as representatives of God and religious traditions.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Social Work Commons