The participation by churches and church leaders in political campaigns is an American tradition dating back to the founding of the republic. Common examples include:
- inviting candidates to speak during worship services
- distributing "voter education" literature reflecting candidates' views on selected topics
- voter registration activities
- enlisting volunteers for a particular candidate's campaign
- collecting contributions for a particular candidate
- statements by ministers during worship services or in church publications that support or oppose candidates
Unfortunately, it is not well understood that these kinds of activities, as well-meaning as they may be, jeopardize a church's exemption from federal income taxation. This is because section 501(c)(3) of the tax code specifies that a church or other public charity is exempt from federal income taxation only if "no substantial ...