If you are one of the many people that think that separation of church and state would prohibit this, you might be surprised at the answer. In a recent newsletter, Hugh Jones of Law as Ministry (Colorado Springs, CO) shared the following insights:
What you can do
- Encourage people to vote (in general).
- Encourage people to sign up to vote.
- Educate your congregation on the issues (even speak out against them).
What you absolutely cannot do
- Encourage them how to vote or not vote (in regards to a specific person or political party).
- Engage in political campaign activities that promote or oppose candidates or political parties.
What happens if you violate these rules?
- You can lose your tax-exempt status.
- If you give out voter guidelines (resources that objectively summarize where candidates stand on issues) to your congregation, make sure that you don’t include (or simultaneously speak to) your organization’s stance on the issues.
- If you preach about the church’s stance on a politically charged topic, avoid mentioning the name of any parties or candidates who take a similar or opposing stances (even in passing).
- Make sure everyone who takes the stage/pulpit (including announcement volunteers) know not to mention or imply endorsement of a political candidate or party from that platform, as this can easily be confused as organizational endorsement.
For more helpful information on legal issues affecting churches, consider signing up for legal updates from Law as Ministry.