By Richard Land, For Faith & Family
“The First Amendment of the Constitution was originally intended to guarantee, not take away, our freedom of religious expression.” Richard Land, President, For Faith & Family
– Preach on moral and social issues and encourage civic involvement
– Engage in voter registration activities that avoid promoting any one candidate or particular political party
– Distribute educational materials to voters (such as voter guides), but only those that do not favor a particular candidate or party and that cover a wide range of issues
– Conduct candidate or issues forums where each duly qualified candidate invited and provided an equal opportunity to address the congregation
– Invite candidates or elected officials to speak at church services*
– Endorse candidates on behalf of the church
– Use church funds or services (such as mailing lists or office equipment) to contribute directly to candidates or political committees
– Permit the distribution of material on church premises that favors any one candidate or political party
– Use church funds to pay fees for political events
– Set up a political committee that would contribute funds directly to political candidates
– Allow candidates to solicit funds while speaking in a church
“Is that legal?”
There are legal limits to what churches may do, but your hands are not completely tied. In fact, you may be surprised at how much influence you can have. Unfortunately, many are confused about what is and what is not legal given the IRS restrictions on political activity by churches and other tax-exempt organizations. While it is impossible to lay out a definitive list of “dos” and “don’ts” since the IRS interprets what is and isn’t legal, this resource is offered as a general guideline.
*Churches that allow only one candidate or a single party’s candidate to speak can be seen as favoring that candidate or party. No candidate should be prohibited from addressing a church if others running for the same office have been allowed to speak. Exempt from this are candidates or public figures who may speak at a church, but they must refrain from speaking about their candidacy.