What Can Churches Do During An Election?

What Can Churches Do in An Election Year?

Actually the church can do and say a great deal about the issues during the election process.  Articles have been published in the media, about this or that church losing its tax exemption because of an infraction.  The IRS regularly issues these reports, seemingly to intimidate pastors and church leaders into saying nothing.

Much anxiety has been put upon the church by the IRS, to keep her silent. That was the result of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s sweeping the church under the IRS control in 1954.  Prior to that action, the church was not limited at all – and the church was certainly not under the IRS.

NOTE:  In the remaining portion of this article, I will tell you what the IRS says and wants, but, there is a rapidly growing movement by pastors, backed by the Alliance Defense Fund to openly defy this ban, in an effort to challenge this law in court.  The ADF’s Network has 2,000 attorneys who have vowed to defend any pastor and church targeted by the IRS. Pastors are asked to tape their messages and send a copy to the IRS, and in Yr. 2010, 100 pastors did so.  The IRS did not respond to any of the challenges.  It is our belief that they will not challenge this – for they do NOT want it to go to court.

The following statement is required to be in the organizations foundational documents, in order to be tax exempt. In the paragraph following , we will carefully examine this statement, and see what it actually says.

No substantial part of the activities of this corporation shall consist of carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and the corporation shall not participate or intervene in any political campaign (including the publishing or distribution of statements) on behalf of any candidate for public office.”

There are actually two issues addressed in that statement; the first part speaks of a limitation of involvement, whereas, the second part prohibits certain activities regarding candidates:

NOTE:  In the first part of the statement the word, “substantial.” This is not intended to be construed as a prohibition, of ‘carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation.  ’That simply means the church can be involved – but not to any substantial extent. The IRS is unwilling to put a dollar amount in writing, but it is generally agreed that 5%, [even more] of the church assets and income stream can be used to “propagandize, or otherwise attempt to influence legislation.”  If the church abdicates from its mission of making the will and purposes of Christ known in the offices and hallways of our capitols, who will do it?

Point– If the church observes legislation brewing in the state capitol that calls for opposition, then by all means use church funds to print placards, and hire transportation to get your people on the front steps of the capitol building to make a statement. While we do not condone or support radicals or extremists, making statements is part of the churches mission, and we must not back away.

NOTE the second part is intended to be a definite prohibition, “ and the corporation shall not participate or intervene in any political campaign (including the publishing or distribution of statements) on behalf of any candidate for public office.”

In this regard, it is acceptable to the IRS for the church to:
·        Conduct non-partisan voter registration/education drives;
·        Host candidate forums where all are invited and treated impartially;
·        Distribute voting records and candidate surveys in compliance with the neutrality rules set forth by the IRS;
·        Rent a church mailing list–at market value–to a candidate;
·        Publish an ad in the Church Bulletin for all who request, as long as the ad is purchased at the regular rate for such ads;
·        Invite a political candidate to attend a church service or meeting. Other candidates for office must also be given the same opportunity should they request it.
·        Pay to attend a caucus for a state or national political convention;
·        Make in-kind or independent expenditures for or against candidates.
·        Contribute to political candidates or political committees;
·        Participate in fund-raising projects for political candidates;
·        Make an outright donation of a mailing list to a political candidate;
·        Sell a discounted ad if no other advertisers are offered discounts.

WHAT THE IRS SAYS THE CHURCH SHOULDN’T DO [And it’s now being openly challenged]:
·        Endorse political candidates;
·        Speak for or against, or otherwise publish negative statements about a political candidate;
·        Distribute candidate statements;

The above information is provided as a service to the Body of Christ by ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANCE

Copyright © 2004; and 2012 by Administrative Assistance.

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