Right now, U.S. law prohibits non-profit groups — including churches — from endorsing political candidates:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) 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 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. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
However, on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” pastors have openly defied this law by doing the one thing they’re not supposed to do: Tell their congregations who to vote for. (Some pastors have even sent the IRS videos of their sermons).
More than 1,600 pastors participated in the event in 2012 alone, so this isn’t just a fringe group we’re talking about.
(If you’re wondering why the IRS hasn’t taking action, the answer is simple: bureaucracy. A “high-level” employee has to authorize the audits and no one is currently in a position to do that. The IRS isn’t rushing to fill the spot, either.)
In 2011, Senator Chuck Grassley, who sits on the Joint Committee on Taxation, asked the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability to issue a report proposing answers to questions dealing with taxes and religious organizations.
Today, a report was released by the ECFA (which formed the “Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations”) and they’re urging Congress to change the law so that church leaders can endorse candidates from the pulpit:
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