You Ask, We Answer: Election Year Do’s and Don’ts for Churches Q&A

being there // Lindsay Taylor on Thursday October 13, 2016

With the 2016 elections just under a month away, political campaigns are unavoidable, it seems. Churches and other nonprofit organizations must be very cautious when it comes to these campaigns, because getting involved in the wrong way could potentially harm their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

On September 27, 2016, GuideOne Insurance and Church Executive magazine teamed up to present a webinar on this topic. The webinar produced numerous questions from our viewers relating to what activities churches and other nonprofit organizations can or cannot engage in during a political campaign.

Our featured guest speaker, David Middlebrook, and his partner John Anthony of Anthony and Middlebrook and the Church Law Group, provide answers to the questions submitted during the webinar in our Q&A recap below. 

Q: Various politicians want to come to speak at our church on Sunday.  There is not time enough for that.  Are we allowed to acknowledge the candidates, such as “Thank you Candidate A for worshipping with us today. He/she is running for XYZ Office” and keep the service moving along?
A: It is okay to acknowledge, but it is very important not to add commentary. If you do want to acknowledge, perhaps run the script by your counsel beforehand.  If the individual is already in office and no campaign is going on, it is ok to acknowledge.

Q: Are churches allowed to host forums for community to ask questions of the different candidates?
A: Yes, but it needs to be moderated fairly and evenly, with all the candidates getting the same question.

Q: Is the pastor EVER allowed to say he/she is voting for a particular candidate?
A: In cases in which the organization is not being used by the pastor to promote their endorsement.

Q: Our church is a voting site in November. Is this a problem? (Many churches in the area are voting sites, as well.)
A: No.

Q: A group in our church would like to have us set up a display table in our fellowship area for candidates to leave written materials for our members and visitors to pick up, take home and read. Is this a good or bad idea?
A: Bad idea, they would have to make sure all candidates are represented and all information for all candidates is equally accessible. Everything must be fair and balanced.

Q: Our synagogue supports AIPAC. Is this okay? Or is this a violation of the general rule?
A: Further analysis of the specific PAC would be necessary. It would depend on the purpose of the PAC and whether or not they are associated with a candidate or are endorsing a candidate.

Q: Is it okay to use our church as a polling place? What are the laws/guidelines we must follow and what rights do we have?
A: Yes, it is permissible. There may be a few local laws such as zoning statues, but in referencing federal tax code and then 501(c)(3) status, and on a national perspective, it is permissible.

Q: We are going to have a musical event and wanted to invite the present mayor. Is this ok?
A: Yes, so long as it is not used for a campaign, or near a re-election.

Q: Can a Senior Pastor run for mayor or local office? If so, how would it look for his teaching ministry?
A: He has the right to run for office, no question, but his use of the time of the organization should only be used for the organization and should not be used for promotion of his campaign. He cannot use charitable time for talking about his campaign, the church's mailing list, volunteers, use of facilities for campaign activities for free, etc.

Q: Is it permissible for a church to support/oppose ballot measures?
A: Yes, so long as the activity does not support or oppose a candidate for office.

Q: Can the pastor speak about issues from the pulpit?
A: Yes, so long as the activity does not support or oppose a candidate for office.

Q: If a candidate shows up at a regularly scheduled church service (uninvited) and stands in the back of the church and shakes hands with the congregants as they arrive or leave, does this violate the rules? Should they be asked to be seated or leave?
A: It depends on how disruptive is the person being.  Are they stopping the service, using church resources, is the church participating in it? It is not a problem if they are just worshiping and not campaigning - Mitt Romney did this. 

Q: What if a member of a church congregation personally sent letters to everyone the membership list inviting them to an information/discussion session not on church property?
A: That is permissible, so long as the mailing list was not obtained from the church.

Q: Can the pastor take positions on issues from the pulpit? Can he give his personal endorsement on issues … not candidates?
A: Yes, so long as it is not a substantial amount of the Church’s activity.

Q: Please provide clarity on how churches are able to express their values and concern for particular issues without being worried about those values being perceived as an endorsement for the candidate that does or does not seem concerned about those issues.
A: I would recommend seeking legal counsel on any matters addressed through the nonprofit organization that may violate the Internal Revenue Code prohibiting political activity.

Be on the lookout for more answers in our next blog post coming up on October 18, 2016. Additionally, a full recording of the webinar is now available to view, download and share.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor is a Marketing Coordinator for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on marketing communications and the co-op program.

In her free time, she enjoys dancing, running and spending time with friends and family.

Holiday Service Safety Considerations

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 12:21
Christmas services are among the highest-attended services of the year, presenting an exciting opportunity to celebrate and worship with a larger audience. With the increased number of services and attendees, you’ll want to make safety a top priority. Here are some pointers to help you plan for your large gathering.

Gearing Up for Summer Youth Activities

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 08:59

As the school year comes to a close, summer activities are ramping up. If your organization is planning events for the youth in your community – Vacation Bible School, camps, daycare and family activities – there are many safety considerations to think about before day one. Here are some things to keep in mind:  

Steps to Take After a Storm

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 00:06
So far in 2017, there have been 10,709 reports of severe weather across the country. This includes 928 tornadoes, 3,471 reports of hail and 6,310 reports of strong winds. Of these reports, the state of Texas alone had 1,180 reports of severe weather followed by Missouri with 833 reports and Georgia with 633 reports.*

Celebrate Your Administrative Professionals

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 08:56
Administrative Professionals Day is a great opportunity to recognize the many contributions of the secretaries, receptionists and administrative assistants within your organization. This year, Administrative Professionals Day is celebrated on Wednesday, April 26.

Here are a few ways you can say "thank you":

You Ask, We Answer: Protecting Your School and Campus Communities Webinar Q&A

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 08:08
With school crime and violence on the rise, it’s extremely important for your school to take the proper security measures to protect students, staff and everyone else affiliated with your organization.  

Join Us for a Free Webinar: Protect Your School and Campus Communities

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 06:00
School-related crime and violence is an ongoing hot topic, and it is more important than ever to ensure you are taking the proper measures to protect your students, staff and community members.

Easter Sunday Safety Considerations

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 06:00
Easter is less than a month away, and many churches are beginning to plan their annual Easter Sunday services. During this planning, one of the most important things to consider is the number of people who will be in attendance.

Responding to Negative Online Comments

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 09:45
As much as we want to receive all-positive comments, feedback and reviews, people are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones, and they often use our online platforms to do so.

Group Trip Travel Safety

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 06:00

As spring and summer draw near, church groups, school groups and nonprofit organizations like yours may be planning mission or outreach trips. These trips provide opportunities to help others in need, learn, and connect with others in your organization, but they also present unique risks that need to be taken seriously.

5 Ways to Say 'Thank You' on Employee Appreciation Day

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 06:00
Think about the tasks required by your business each and every day. Now imagine trying to get those done without any employees. Tough, right?

Personal Auto, Business Use

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 06:00

Whether they’re delivering meals, collecting donations, visiting a church member in the hospital or attending an off-site work meeting, do your employees drive vehicles owned by your organization or their own vehicles when traveling for work?

There are pros and cons to each approach, and it may be worth it to review – and possibly modify – your organization’s policies on work-related travel.

Emergency Shelter Preparedness

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 06:00
Tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, floods and winter storms: These are all natural disasters that, recently, we’ve heard about much too often. In 2016, 103 natural disasters were declared across the United States. Among those were Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Hermine, wildfires in Tennessee and severe storms, to name a few.

Tax-Time Resources for Your Organization

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 06:00
Tax season is upon us, and you’re probably beginning to think about what you and/or your finance team needs to do in order to file your organization’s annual return. 

Winter-Weather Building Maintenance

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 20:38
We are approaching the middle of winter and although some areas have had warm spells, the cold weather isn't backing down quite yet. Freezing temperatures can be harsh your on facility, and if your building isn't winterized, these temperatures can cause big problems. Here are a few tips to help keep your facility in tip-top shape no matter what winter brings its way.   

Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter

Thu, 01/12/2017 - 07:00
The cold weather that winter brings can be troubling in more ways than one. Aside from making you shiver and dread walking outside, below-freezing temperatures can pose a threat to your facility – particularly to your water pipes.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Organization

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 16:33
Wow, 2016 flew by and we’re already making our way into 2017. Chances are you set personal resolutions for 2017 and are working on keeping up with those. Although we often focus on personal goals for the new year, I challenge you to set a few goals for your organization as well this year.

Below are a few ideas for new year’s resolutions you can set for your organization:

Celebrate 2017 at GuideOne ImaginEve!

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 07:30
New Year’s Eve is sneaking up on us, and 2017 will be here before we know it! If you live in the Des Moines metro, we'd love for you and your family to ring in the new year with us at GuideOne ImaginEve!, the area's biggest New Year’s Eve party for kids. GuideOne is the presenting sponsor of this annual family friendly New Year's Eve celebration – an event&nb

Top 5 Holiday Hazards

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 10:00

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Between holiday decorations, family gatherings, community events, snow and overall holiday cheer, the holidays can be a fun time for all. However, many don’t realize that the days surrounding holidays are actually some of the most dangerous days of the year. Below are the top five hazards that many face during the holidays.

Flu Prevention

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 07:00

We are in the midst of cold and flu season, and it seems like just about everyone is blowing their noses, coughing or sneezing. Having a cold or the flu is no fun, especially around the holidays. Below are a few tips to stay illness-free this winter.

Take Part in #GivingTuesday

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 07:53

As the holiday season brings joy and cheer, it also brings the opportunity to give back to the community and help those in need. Today, you can give back to your community by taking part in #GivingTuesday.  

Happy Thanksgiving from GuideOne Insurance

Thu, 11/24/2016 - 07:00

Thanksgiving is finally here and I am so excited to be back in my hometown spending time with my family! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because one, I get to eat delicious food, and two, I get to spend some much-needed time with my family and reflect on what I am thankful for.

Prep Your Facility for Winter Weather

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 08:01

It seems like just yesterday we were enjoying beautiful, warm fall weather. Now, temperatures are dropping and winter is right around the corner.

Eat This, Not That: Holiday Food Swaps

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 10:23

Thanksgiving is only a week away, and it seems as though all I can think about lately is the delicious food I will be eating - turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and of course my dad’s famous pumpkin pie. I’m drooling just thinking about it. However, while they sound so good, many of these foods are full of salt, sugar, fat and other unhealthy ingredients.

Tips for Hosting a Holiday Food Drive

Tue, 11/08/2016 - 07:16
Halloween has come and gone, and the holiday season has officially started. For many, it’s time to dust off those decorations, turn on the festive music and prepare for all of the holiday activities you have planned. In the midst of all of the craziness the season brings, don’t forget to take a moment to help out those who may not be as fortunate.

Social Media Best Practices

Tue, 10/25/2016 - 00:00
Social media can be a very effective tool for your organization’s communication and outreach efforts, as long as it's used responsibly. Consider the following social media pointers to keep your organization risk free while keeping up with the latest trends.

You Ask, We Answer: Election Year Do's and Don'ts for Churches Webinar Q&A (Part II)

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 08:00
While many churches and other nonprofit organizations like to get involved in political activity, they must be cautious when doing so. If a church or nonprofit organization gets involved in the wrong way, that involvement could potentially harm the group's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. This topic was discussed in a recent webinar held by GuideOne Insurance and Church Executive.

Is It a Cold or is It the Flu?

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 17:18

As we jump into October and the start of fall, we also jump into cold and flu season. While the cold and the flu are caused by different viruses, they often present very similar symptoms – and they’re both miserable. If you or your family members come down with a sore throat, stuffy nose and other ailments, the following infographic can help you determine what you have – and how you can treat it.

Would You Know How to Respond in an Emergency Medical Situation?

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 08:00
A child trips as a result of untied shoes and cuts her knee. A college student gets a chemical burn while conducting an experiment in chemistry lab. An elderly man collapses during a church service. If someone you were with experienced any one of these medical situations, would you know how to handle it?

5 Ways to Say "Thank You" During Pastor Appreciation Month

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 08:00

Leader, mentor, teacher, friend … these are words we often use to describe pastors. Pastors are an essential part of running a successful ministry. Not only do they lead church services, but they also put in countless hours behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.

How to Respond to Property Loss

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 08:45
The past few months have been a whirlwind of natural disasters in the United States. Wildfires struck California, burning over 183,000 acres as of August 27. The floods in Louisiana earned the title of “Worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” according to the American Red Cross.

Join Us for a Free Webinar on Election Year Do’s and Don’ts for Churches

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 10:56

The 2016 Presidential Election is quickly approaching with roughly 2 months left until Election Day on November 8, 2016. During this time, your church may be preparing for Election Day activities or engaging in activities leading up to this day. However, what you might not be aware of is the restrictions your church faces when it comes to political activity.

Distracted Driving

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 13:49
Distracted driving has become an increasing problem in America. More than ever, people are texting, Snapchatting, eating, applying makeup, dozing off and focusing on items other than the road in front of them. This scary trend is leading to more and more accidents every year.

Review the following infographic for tips on how to stay focused while on the road.

Revisiting Your Child Safety Plan

Tue, 08/16/2016 - 08:00
It’s that time of year again; back to school. This means that after-school clubs, fall sports practices, Sunday school and religious education classes are back in swing. While children are stocking up on new school supplies, it is important for the leaders of your organization to revisit your child safety plan.

How to Prevent a Cyber Attack

Tue, 08/02/2016 - 08:45
Less than one month before Christmas of 2013, many people’s worst nightmares came true. Target, one of the most popular department stores and a very busy place during the holiday season, had a huge data breach that affected roughly 70 million people. Credit card information, names, addresses, emails and phone numbers were all stolen.

VBS Safety Tips

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 08:00
The summer months are a very popular time for churches to host Vacation Bible School (VBS). This week long event provides the perfect opportunity to teach the youngest members of your congregation more about your ministry. 

Outdoor Summer Event Safety Checklist

Tue, 07/05/2016 - 08:00
With the warm, beautiful weather that summer brings, it provides a great opportunity to host events outdoors. However, sometimes outdoor events can pose threats to those working and attending them. View the checklist below to prevent any accidents from taking place at your next outdoor event. 

Trips and Falls 

How a Healthy Lifestyle Benefits your Insurance

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 08:00
Health and wellness has become an important topic. More than ever, people are concerned with eating healthy, working out and staying fit to avoid increasing their risk of obesity, which can cause other serious health issues. In corporate America, many companies are even offering onsite fitness centers, as well as wellness benefits, to their employees to help with this initiative.

Everything You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

Tue, 05/31/2016 - 08:00
With June right around the corner, it is a great time for churches to begin planning their summer mission trips. While these trips can be the opportunity of a lifetime, they can quickly be brought down when illness strikes. 

Helping Ministry Students Achieve their Dreams

Thu, 03/17/2016 - 08:00
Attending college is the subject of many students’ dreams. However, for some, that dream seems unachievable. The costs associated with attending college can be overwhelming and can drive students away. Fortunately, with the help of scholarships and grants, students can more easily make their dream of attending college a reality.