Good question! Many church leaders are confused about what is and what is not legal given the IRS restrictions on political activity by tax-exempt organizations.
These are general guidelines to the legal do’s and don’ts:
YES! You can…
- Give sermons on moral and social issues and civic involvement
- Educate on political process and political/social/legislative issues
- Distribute candidate surveys and incumbent voting records (avoid editorial opinions and make sure they cover a wide range of issues)
- Encourage members to voice their opinions in favor or in opposition to certain legislation*
- Discuss biblical instruction pertaining to moral and cultural issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.
- Support or oppose judicial, department, or cabinet appointments
- Support or oppose other political appointments of non-elected officials
- Offer church facilities for use to political candidates (as long as all other candidates are allowed or invited)
- Run petition drives supporting or opposing legislation
- Support or oppose legislation unrelated to the church organization*
- Engage in voter registration activities that avoid promoting any one candidate or particular political party.
- Encourage your congregation to vote and recommend We Believe-We Vote as a non-partisan resource. Suggested bulletin announcement here.
NO! You shouldn’t…
- Endorse or oppose political candidates
- Contribute to Political Action Committees
- Insert a church bulletin editorial where the pastor or staff member endorses or opposes a candidate
- Campaign for candidates
- Raise funds for candidates
- Grant use of name to support a political candidate
- Support or oppose judicial candidates
- Contribute to political candidates
- Make in-kind and independent expenditures for or against political candidates
Print and distribute a copy of these do’s and don’t by clicking HERE: church do’s and don’ts
*Churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations may support or oppose legislation so long as such activity comprises an insubstantial part of the overall operation. 501(c)(4) organizations may support or oppose legislation without any limitations.
**A church or any other 501(c)(3) organization may without limitation support or oppose legislation that directly affects the organizational structure and operation. For example, a church may without limitation oppose legislation attempting to repeal the tax exempt status of the church.
Adapted from resources provided by: Alliance Defense Fund, American Center for Law and Justice and Liberty Counsel and www.IVoteValues.org.