Things Your Church Should Know During an Election Yearshared values // on Thursday June 23, 2016
The 2016 Presidential Election is in full swing with just under five months until Election Day on November 8, 2016. These months leading up to the election are crucial for campaigning and many organizations are asked to get involved. However, churches must be careful of the activities they participate in to avoid trouble.
Under the law, churches are prohibited from participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition of any candidate for a public office. If a church does not abide by this limitation, it may impact their Internal Revenue Services (IRS) tax-exempt status.
To assist in preventing issues from arising around these limitations, churches should refrain from engaging in the following activities:
- Donating money to a political campaign fund.
- Fundraising on behalf of a candidate.
- Providing a public statement in favor of, or in opposition to a candidate in a church publication or at a church function.
- Endorsing candidates.
- Campaign activities by employees within the context of their employment.
- Creating a newspaper ad to encourage voters to vote for or against a certain candidate.
Although churches are not allowed to engage in certain events pertaining to an election or political campaign, there are still many ways to get involved with the election. Activities that a church may participate in during an election year include:
- Providing a forum for candidates to address the church.
- Inviting candidates to address the congregation – before each speech, the church should inform the congregation that the views expressed by the candidate are not the views of the churches and that the church does not endorse any candidate.
- Providing voter guides that are fair and impartial. Note that guides containing questions that display bias are not allowed.
- Distributing a list of voting records of major legislative issues from all members of Congress.
- Holding voter registration drives – the church must remain neutral.
- The minister and other church employees may make public comments regarding the election, as long as they are not made at the church facility or in a church publication. The comments must include a statement that the comments are strictly personal and do not represent the church.
For more information on the limitations surrounding churches involvement during an election, please visit the IRS website.