In order to maintain their exemption from federal income taxes, churches and other religious organizations must comply with several requirements specified in section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. One of these requirements is that the organization not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office. Despite the importance and potential impact of this limitation on religious organizations, it has not been defined with sufficient clarity. The IRS has attempted to provide more clarification in recent years. Most recently it published a ruling that addresses 21 questions. These questions, and the IRS responses, are summarized in this feature article.
The participation by churches and church leaders in political campaigns is an American tradition. Common examples include:
- Inviting candidates to speak during worship services