Religion and Elections: 10 Things You Can’t Do


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* Do not publish a candidate’s statement.

* Do not publish names of candidates who agree to adhere to certain practices.

* Do not publish candidate responses to a questionnaire that evidences bias on certain issues.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* Do not publish or distribute printed or oral statements about candidates.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.