On Sunday, September 28th, thirty-three conservative churches broke IRS regulations by endorsing a specific candidate for president. This action is in direct violation of a 1954 law prohibiting non-profit organizations from endorsing candidates for political office. This has brought up many questions in the media about this rule. The UUA has released several resources to help answer some of them.
The IRS designation for non-profits including churches and religious communities is known as 501 (c)(3). Named after the provision in the IRS Tax Code that protects them, 501 (c)(3)’s are prohibited from making any explicit statements for or against any political candidate. But that does not mean they are barred from participating in political conversations.
The regulations surrounding 501 (c)(3)’s are difficult and complicated. However, the UUA’s Real Rules and Faithful Democracy clearly explain what congregations and their leaders may or may not say. It gives many fine examples of what the IRS does and does not expect a church to do during election cycles.
There you will learn how congregations and its leaders may:
- support positions and policies, but not candidates;
- use congregational funds to support voter registration and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaigns;
- and/or host a polling site but not a campaign headquarters.
Please look at the Real Rules and Faithful Democracy in order to prepare and protect yourself in this election season.