SECULAR COALITION FOR AMERICA CALLS FOR AN END POLITICKING FROM THE PULPIT
via Secular.org January 3, 2012
In 2008, the Alliance Defense Fund’s “Pulpit Initiative” encouraged pastors to endorse political candidates in the upcoming elections with the goal of overturning the ban on these activities in the courts. ADF want to establish a “pastor’s right to speak freely from his pulpit without fearing censorship or punishment by the government.”
Religious organizations (including churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.), like other tax-exempt nonprofits, may engage in lobbying activities as long the extent of the lobbying is not substantial. The IRS has not committed to any specific percentages to define substantial but various guidelines provide a range of between 5 and 20 percent of an organization’s expenditures.
Also like other tax-exempt nonprofits, religious organizations have unlimited free speech in talking about social issues. The lobbying limitations come into effect only when the social issues discussed are focused on a specific piece of legislation.
Although limited lobbying is allowed, religious organizations, just like other tax-exempt nonprofits, may NOT engage in political campaigns. Endorsement of a candidate for public office, campaign contributions to a candidate or allied campaign, use of resources to benefit or hinder a candidacy, and the publication or distribution of literature in support or opposition of a candidate is absolutely prohibited.
Tax-exempt nonprofits, including religious organizations, as part of an education program can provide voting records, candidate position statements, and similar information as long as it is conducted in a neutral fashion. The key factor is that the organization may not promote a partisan position regarding the campaign.
The Secular Coalition for America strongly opposes efforts to privilege religious groups by allowing them to be active in political campaigns while retaining their tax exempt status.