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Q Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-06-05 07:32 AM
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310. Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations
Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations

Publication 1828 (Rev. 7-02)

Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20224
Attn: T:EO:CE&O

---------------------------------

EXCERPT:

Political Campaign Activity

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all IRC Section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and
religious organizations, are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or
intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public
office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written)
made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office
clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result
in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For
example, certain voter education activities (including the presentation of public forums and the
publication of voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited
political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the
electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not constitute prohibited
political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner. On the other hand, voter education or
registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another, or (b) oppose
a candidate in some manner, or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will
constitute prohibited participation or intervention.



7


Individual Activity by Religious Leaders

The political campaign activity prohibition is not intended to restrict free expression on political
matters by leaders of churches or religious organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals.
Nor are leaders prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. However, for
their organizations to remain tax-exempt under IRC Section 501(c)(3), religious leaders cannot
make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official church functions. To
avoid potential attribution of their comments outside of church functions and publications,
religious leaders who speak or write in their individual capacity are encouraged to clearly indicate
that their comments are personal and not intended to represent the views of the organization.

The following are examples of situations involving endorsements by religious leaders.

Example 1: Minister A is the minister of Church J and is well
known in the community. With their permission, Candidate T
publishes a full-page ad in the local newspaper listing five
prominent ministers who have personally endorsed Candidate T,
including Minister A. Minister A is identified in the ad as the
minister of Church J. The ad states, Titles and affiliations of
each individual are provided for identification purposes only.
The ad is paid for by Candidate Ts campaign committee. Since
the ad was not paid for by Church J, the ad is not otherwise in an
official publication of Church J, and the endorsement is made by
Minister A in a personal capacity, the ad does not constitute
campaign intervention by Church J.

Example 2: Minister B is the minister of Church K. Church K
publishes a monthly church newsletter that is distributed to all
church members. In each issue, Minister B has a column titled
"My Views." The month before the election, Minister B states in
the "My Views" column, "It is my personal opinion that
Candidate U should be reelected." For that one issue, Minister B
pays from his personal funds the portion of the cost of the
newsletter attributable to the My Views column. Even though
he paid part of the cost of the newsletter, the newsletter is an
official publication of the church. Since the endorsement
appeared in an official publication of Church K, it constitutes
campaign intervention attributed to Church K.

Example 3: Minister C is the minister of Church L and is well
known in the community. Three weeks before the election he
attends a press conference at Candidate V's campaign
headquarters and states that Candidate V should be reelected.
Minister C does not say he is speaking on behalf of his church.
His endorsement is reported on the front page of the local



8

newspaper and he is identified in the article as the minister of
Church L. Since Minister C did not make the endorsement at an
official church function, in an official church publication or
otherwise use the church's assets, and did not state that he was
speaking as a representative of Church L, his actions did not
constitute campaign intervention attributable to Church L.

Example 4: Minister D is the minister of Church M. During
regular services of Church M shortly before the election,
Minister D preached on a number of issues, including the
importance of voting in the upcoming election, and concludes by
stating, It is important that you all do your duty in the election
and vote for Candidate W. Since Minister Ds remarks
indicating support for Candidate W were made during an official
church service, they constitute political campaign intervention
attributable to Church M.

Inviting a Candidate to Speak

Depending on the facts and circumstances, a church or religious organization may invite political
candidates to speak at its events without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. Political candidates
may be invited in their capacity as candidates, or individually (not as a candidate).

Speaking as a candidate. Like any other IRC Section 501(c)(3) organization, when a
candidate is invited to speak at a church or religious organization event as a political
candidate, the church or religious organization must take steps to ensure that:
It provides an equal opportunity to the political candidates seeking the same
office,
It does not indicate any support of or opposition to the candidate (this should be
stated explicitly when the candidate is introduced and in communications
concerning the candidates attendance), and
No political fundraising occurs.

Equal opportunity to participate. Like any other IRC Section 501(c)(3)
organization, in determining whether candidates are given an equal opportunity to
participate, a church or religious organization should consider the nature of the event
to which each candidate is invited, in addition to the manner of presentation. For
example, a church or religious organization that invites one candidate to speak at its
well attended annual banquet, but invites the opposing candidate to speak at a
sparsely attended general meeting, will likely be found to have violated the political
campaign prohibition, even if the manner of presentation for both speakers is
otherwise neutral.

Public Forum. Sometimes a church or religious organization invites several
candidates to speak at a public forum. A public forum involving several candidates
for public office may qualify as an exempt educational activity. However, if the
forum is operated to show a bias for or against any candidate, then the forum would
be prohibited campaign activity, as it would be considered intervention or
participation in a political campaign. When an organization invites several
candidates to speak at a forum, it should consider the following factors:



9

Whether questions for the candidate are prepared and presented by an
independent nonpartisan panel,
Whether the topics discussed by the candidates cover a broad range of issues
that the candidates would address if elected to the office sought and are of
interest to the public,
Whether each candidate is given an equal opportunity to present his or her
views on the issues discussed,
Whether the candidates are asked to agree or disagree with positions,
agendas, platforms or statements of the organization, and
Whether a moderator comments on the questions or otherwise implies
approval or disapproval of the candidates.

The following are two examples of situations where a church or religious organization
invites a candidate(s) to speak before the congregation.

Example 5: Minister E is the minister of Church N. In the
month prior to the election, Minister E invited the three
Congressional candidates for the district in which Church N is
located to address the congregation, one each on three successive
Sundays, as part of regular worship services. Each candidate
was given an equal opportunity to address and field questions on
a wide variety of topics from the congregation. Minister Es
introduction of each candidate included no comments on their
qualifications or any indication of a preference for any candidate.
The actions do not constitute political campaign intervention by
Church N.

Example 6: Minister F is the minister of Church O. The Sunday
before the November election, Minister F invited Senate
Candidate X to preach to her congregation during worship
services. During his remarks, Candidate X stated, I am asking
not only for your votes, but for your enthusiasm and dedication,
for your willingness to go the extra mile to get a very large
turnout on Tuesday. Minister F invited no other candidate to
address her congregation during the Senatorial campaign.
Because these activities took place during official church
services they are attributed to Church O. By selectively
providing church facilities to allow Candidate X to speak in
support of his campaign, Church Os actions constitute political
campaign intervention.



10


Speaking as a non-candidate. Like any other IRC Section 501(c)(3) organization, a
church or religious organization may invite political candidates (including church
members) to speak in a non-candidate capacity. For instance, a political candidate may
be a public figure because he or she: (a) currently holds, or formerly held, public office,
(b) is considered an expert in a non-political field, or (c) is a celebrity or has led a
distinguished military, legal, or public service career. When a candidate is invited to
speak at an event in a non-candidate capacity, it is not necessary for the church or
religious organization to provide equal access to all political candidates. However, the
church or religious organization must ensure that:
The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity,
Neither the individual nor any representative of the church makes any
mention of his or her candidacy or the election, and
No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate's attendance.

In addition, the church or religious organization should clearly indicate the capacity in
which the candidate is appearing and should not mention the individual's political
candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate's
attendance at the event.

Below are examples of situations where a public official appears at a church or religious
organization in an official capacity, and not as a candidate.

Example 7: Church P is located in the state capital. Minister G
customarily acknowledges the presence of any public officials
present during services. During the state gubernatorial race,
Lieutenant Governor Y, a candidate, attended a Wednesday
evening prayer service in the church. Minister G acknowledged
the Lieutenant Governors presence in his customary manner,
saying, We are happy to have worshiping with us this evening
Lieutenant Governor Y. Minister G made no reference in his
welcome to the Lieutenant Governors candidacy or the election.
Minister Gs actions do not constitute political campaign
intervention by Church P.

Example 8: Minister H is the minister of Church Q. Church Q
is building a community center. Minister H invites
Congressman Z, the representative for the district containing
Church Q, to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the
community center. Congressman Z is running for reelection at
the time. Minister H makes no reference in her introduction to
Congressman Zs candidacy or the election. Congressman Z
also makes no reference to his candidacy or the election and does
not do any fundraising while at Church Q. Church Q has not
intervened in a political campaign.

Voter Guides

Like other IRC Section 501(c)(3) organizations, some churches and religious organizations
undertake voter education activities by distributing voter guides. Voter guides, generally, are
distributed during an election campaign and provide information on how all candidates stand on



11

various issues. These guides may be distributed with the purpose of educating voters, however,
they may not be used to attempt to favor or oppose candidates for public elected office.

A careful review of the following facts and circumstances may help determine whether or not a
church or religious organizations publication or distribution of voter guides constitute prohibited
political campaign activity.
Whether the candidates positions are compared to the organizations position,
Whether the guide includes a broad range of issues that the candidates would address
if elected to the office sought,
Whether the description of issues is neutral,
Whether all candidates for an office are included, and
Whether the descriptions of candidates positions are either:
o The candidates own words in response to questions, or
o A neutral, unbiased and complete compilation of all candidates positions.

The following are examples of situations where churches distribute voter guides.

Example 9: Church R distributes a voter guide prior to
elections. The voter guide consists of a brief statement from the
candidates on each issue made in response to a questionnaire
sent to all candidates for governor of State I. The issues on the
questionnaire cover a wide variety of topics and were selected by
Church R based solely on their importance and interest to the
electorate as a whole. Neither the questionnaire nor the voter
guide, through their content or structure, indicate a bias or
preference for any candidate or group of candidates. Church R is
not participating or intervening in a political campaign.

Example 10: Church S distributes a voter guide during an
election campaign. The voter guide is prepared using the
responses of candidates to a questionnaire sent to candidates for
major public offices. Although the questionnaire covers a wide
range of topics, the wording of the questions evidences a bias on
certain issues. By using a questionnaire structured in this way,
Church S is participating or intervening in a political campaign.


http://www.americanunitarian.org/Legal/IRS%20Publicatio ...

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