Politicians are usually eager to prove that they stand with God, and more important, vice versa. Many religious leaders are eager to join the fray by invoking a deity or religious text during an election campaign.
Such actions can be risky for religious institutions, however, and in “Church and Nonprofit Tax & Financial Guide,” Dan Busby, Michael Martin and John Van Drunen caution that if a church participates in even one political activity it can potentially lose its tax-exempt status.
To avoid violating the political campaign provisions of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, they advise:
* Do not use a rating program to evaluate candidates.
* Do not endorse a candidate, or slate of candidates, directly or indirectly through a sermon, speech, newsletter or sample ballot.
* Do not publish a candidate’s statement.
* Do not publish names of candidates who agree to adhere to certain practices.
* Do not publish candidate responses to a questionnaire that evidences bias on certain issues. Classifying particular candidates as too conservative or too liberal is an improper rating system.
* Do not raise funds for a candidate or provide support to a political party.
* Do not provide volunteers, mailing lists, publicity or free use of facilities unless all parties and candidates in the community receive the same services.
* Do not pay campaign expenses for a candidate.
* Do not publish or distribute printed or oral statements about candidates.
* Do not display campaign literature on the organization’s premises.