Separation of Church and State and Political Campaigns
According to the American United for Separation of Church and State website (https://au.org/issues/churches-and-politics), religious groups have the right to speak out on political and social issues. Federal law, however, prohibits most tax-exempt bodies, including houses of worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Churches are not political action committees and should not act like them. Religious leaders should abide by the law and refrain from turning their congregations into cogs in a political machine.
Under the link to the Project Fair Play webpage and Get the Facts section of this website, an educational outreach effort of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, more detailed information is available about the law and how to be in compliance with it (http://projectfairplay.org/facts/). Specifically churches are not allowed to act as political organizations and advocate for a specific candidate.
Federal tax law is clear: Houses of worship and other non-profit groups may not endorse or oppose candidates for public office. The Internal Revenue Service vigorously enforces this provision of the IRS Code.
Under the Frequently Asked Questions section of this website we find even more specific information: (http://projectfairplay.org/facts/faq/)
Q. What types of activities are prohibited under the IRS Code?
A. Church endorsements of candidates and statements of opposition to candidates are strictly forbidden and can result in revocation of a church’s tax-exempt status. (However, clergy may endorse candidates as individuals in forums outside the church or work on behalf of candidates during their personal time.)
In addition, churches may not contribute money to candidates, solicit contributions on their behalf or donate to candidates’ political action committees. Churches may not set up their own PACs.
Q. What constitutes an endorsement or opposition to a candidate?
A. Prohibited activities may include letters of endorsement or opposition printed on church letterhead, church-sponsored distribution of campaign literature, pastors advising congregants to vote for or against candidates from the pulpit, the display of campaign signs on church property and other activities that could be construed as endorsing or opposing a candidate.
Many types of political activities are however allowable and are also listed on this website to include:
Voter registration drives
Driving people to the polls
Sponsor non-partisan candidate forums
Taking stands on political and social issues
Non-biased voter guides
Proposed LUCC Position and Guidelines
To support and act in accord with the law and the AU Separation of Church and State position, LUCC leadership will refrain from any and all illegal partisan political activities as described on their webpage and summarized here. In addition out of respect for the law , in support of the ethics of respect, fairness, and care for others, and in accord with the values of our church and faith (Mission statement here?), we ask that when on the LUCC property, engaged in LUCC activities, or when representing LUCC at any function on or off the property, the leadership and members of LUCC refrain from overtly endorsing or opposing a political candidate.
Of course as individual and independent citizens and voters, we are all free to communicate and advocate for any political candidate or party of our choice.
Discussion and feedback from congregation is requested.