The Politics of Religion
What church leaders should know in an election year.

We've recently looked at the political activity of churches. In the upcoming September/October 2012 edition of Church Law & Tax Report, Rich Hammar revisits what the Internal Revenue Service says is–and isn't–allowed by churches when it comes to political candidates running for office:

The income tax regulations interpreting the limitation on political campaign intervention provide that neither a church nor any other organization can be exempt from federal income taxation if its charter empowers it "directly or indirectly to participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office." The regulations further provide that:
"The term "candidate for public office" means an individual who offers himself, or is proposed by others, as a contestant for an elective public office, whether such office be national, state, or local. Activities which constitute participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate include, but are not limited to, the publication or distribution of written or printed statements or the making of oral statements on behalf of or in opposition to such a candidate." Treas. Reg. 1.501(c)(3)-1( c )(3)(iii).
This regulation provides some clarification. In particular, it clarifies that:
  • A "candidate" for public office includes local, state, and national candidates;
  • The prohibited intervention or participation in a political campaign can be satisfied either by the making of oral statements or by the publishing or distribution of written statements;
  • Statements made in opposition to, as well as on behalf of, a particular candidate are prohibited.

Read more coverage of churches and political activity in the September/October 2012 edition ofChurch Law & Tax Report. A one-year subscription is currently available at a special, $44 rate in honor of Church Law & Tax Report's 25th anniversary.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

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