“I thought churches lost their tax exempt status if they engaged in political activities”
Not when they support the liberal socialist agenda. Speak out against abortion, gay rights, immigration, freedom of religion, etc. and hyour church will be driven to the edge by the IRS.
However, you need to look at what churches (?) are really signing on to this bunk. Most (many) are so liberal that they can hardly be classify as a Christian church.
GLAD I sold my house and exited that leftist sewer of Seattle two Summers ago...
Well, dirtymac, you were saying — Not when they support the liberal socialist agenda. Speak out against abortion, gay rights, immigration, freedom of religion, etc. and hyour church will be driven to the edge by the IRS.
Well, since some people are not actually looking at the IRS rules and regulations regarding this, I thought I would post it right here so you could see.
You can do any of these things — liberal or conservative — as the IRS guidelines say.
I think what you may be observing, is that (very simply) the liberal ones may be the ones who are speaking out on issues while the conservative ones are *not* doing so in a manner like this.
So, rather than it being *illegal* — the conservative ones simply are *not* engaging the society...
The following is from the IRS handbook (the parts that appear to be relevant here...)
Substantial Lobbying Activity
In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). An IRC section 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.
Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive offices), or by the public in a referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.
A church or religious organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
Churches and religious organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, churches may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.
Measuring Lobbying Activity
Substantial part test. Whether a churchs or religious organizations attempts to influence legislation constitute a substantial part of its overall activities is determined on the basis of all the pertinent facts and circumstances in each case. The IRS considers a variety of factors, including the time devoted (by both compensated and volunteer workers) and the expenditures devoted by the organization to the activity, when determining whether the lobbying activity is substantial. Churches must use the substantial part test since they are not eligible to use the expenditure test described in the next section.
Consequences of excessive lobbying activity. Under the substantial part test, a church or religious organization that conducts excessive lobbying activity in any taxable year may lose its tax-exempt status, resulting in all of its income being subject to tax. In addition, a religious organization is subject to an excise tax equal to five percent of its lobbying expenditures for the year in which it ceases to qualify for exemption. Further, a tax equal to five percent of the lobbying expenditures for the year may be imposed against organization managers, jointly and severally, who agree to the making of such expenditures knowing that the expenditures would likely result in loss of tax-exempt status.
Expenditure test. Although churches are not eligible, religious organizations may elect the expenditure test under IRC section 501(h) as an alternative method for measuring lobbying activity. Under the expenditure test, the extent of an organizations lobbying activity will not jeopardize its tax-exempt status, provided its expenditures, related to such activity, do not normally exceed an amount specified in IRC section 4911. This limit is generally based upon the size of the organization and may not exceed $1,000,000.
Religious organizations electing to use the expenditure test must file IRS Form 5768, Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible IRC Section 501(c)(3) Organization To Make Expenditures To Influence Legislation, at any time during the tax year for which it is to be effective. The election remains in effect for succeeding years unless it is revoked by the organization. Revocation of the election is effective beginning with the year following the year in which the revocation is filed. Religious organizations may wish to consult their tax advisors to determine their eligibility for, and the advisability of, electing the expenditure test.
Consequences of excessive lobbying activity. Under the expenditure test, a religious organization that engages in excessive lobbying activity over a four-year period may lose its tax-exempt status, making all of its income for that period subject to tax. Should the organization exceed its lobbying expenditure dollar limit in a particular year, it must pay an excise tax equal to 25 percent of the excess.
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 tax.
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; (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.
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, a section 501(c)(3) organization, 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, a section 501(c)(3) organization, 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 B does not say he is speaking on behalf of Church K. His endorsement is reported on the front page of the local newspaper and he is identified in the article as the minister of Church K. Because Minister B 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 K, his actions do not constitute campaign intervention by Church K.
Example 3: Minister C is the minister of Church I, a section 501(c)(3) organization. Church I publishes a monthly church newsletter that is distributed to all church members. In each issue, Minister C has a column titled My Views. The month before the election, Minister C states in the My Views column, It is my personal opinion that Candidate U should be reelected. For that one issue, Minister C 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. Because the endorsement appeared in an official publication of Church I, it constitutes campaign intervention attributed to Church I.
Example 4: Minister D is the minister of Church M, a section 501(c)(3) organization. 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 concluded by stating, It is important that you all do your duty in the election and vote for Candidate W. Because Minister Ds remarks indicating support for Candidate W were made during an official church service, they constitute political campaign intervention by to Church M.
Issue Advocacy vs. Political Campaign Intervention
Like other section 501(c)(3) organizations, some churches and religious organizations take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office. However, section 501(c)(3) organizations must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate. A statement can identify a candidate not only by stating the candidates name but also by other means such as showing a picture of the candidate, referring to political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of a candidates platform or biography. All the facts and circumstances need to be considered to determine if the advocacy is political campaign intervention.
Key factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
— whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office,
— whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates positions and/or actions,
— whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election,
— whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election,
— whether the issue addressed in the communication has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office,
— whether the communication is part of an ongoing series of communications by the organization on the same issue that are made independent of the timing of any election, and
— whether the timing of the communication and identification of the candidate are related to a non-electoral event such as a scheduled vote on specific legislation by an officeholder who also happens to be a candidate for public office.
A communication is particularly at risk of political campaign intervention when it makes reference to candidates or voting in a specific upcoming election. Nevertheless, the communication must still be considered in context before arriving at any conclusions.
Example 1: Church O, a section 501(c)(3) organization, prepares and finances a full page newspaper advertisement that is published in several large circulation newspapers in State V shortly before an election in which Senator C is a candidate for nomination in a party primary. Senator C is the incumbent candidate in a party primary. The advertisement states that a pending bill in the United States Senate would provide additional opportunities for State V residents to participate in faith-based programs by providing funding to such church-affiliated programs. The advertisement ends with the statement Call or write Senator C to tell him to vote for this bill, despite his opposition in the past. Funding for faith-based programs has not been raised as an issue distinguishing Senator C from any opponent. The bill is scheduled for a vote before the election. The advertisement identifies Senator Cs position as contrary to Os position. Church O has not violated the political campaign intervention prohibition: The advertisement does not mention the election or the candidacy of Senator C or distinguish Senator C from any opponent. The timing of the advertising and the identification of Senator C are directly related to a vote on the identified legislation. The candidate identified, Senator C, is an officeholder who is in a position to vote on the legislation.
Example 2: Church R, a section 501(c)(3) organization, prepares and finances a radio advertisement urging an increase in state funding for faith-based education in State X, which requires a legislative appropriation. Governor E is the governor of State X. The radio advertisement is first broadcast on several radio stations in State X beginning shortly before an election in which Governor E is a candidate for re-election. The advertisement is not part of an ongoing series of substantially similar advocacy communications by Church R on the same issue. The advertisement cites numerous statistics indicating that faith-based education in State X is under funded. Although the advertisement does not say anything about Governor Es position on funding for faith-based education, it ends with Tell Governor E what you think about our under-funded schools. In public appearances and campaign literature, Governor Es opponent has made funding of faith-based education an issue in the campaign by focusing on Governor Es veto of an income tax increase to increase funding for faith-based education. At the time the advertisement is broadcast, no legislative vote or other major legislative activity is scheduled in the State X legislature on state funding of faith-based education. Church R has violated the political campaign prohibition: The advertisement identifies Governor E, appears shortly before an election in which Governor E is a candidate, is not part of an ongoing series of substantially similar advocacy communications by Church R on the same issue, is not timed to coincide with a non-election event such as a legislative vote or other major legislative action on that issue, and takes a position on an issue that the opponent has used to distinguish himself from Governor E.
Example 3: Candidate A and Candidate B are candidates for the state senate in District W of State X. The issue of State X funding for a faith-based indigent hospital care in District W is a prominent issue in the campaign. Both candidates have spoken out on the issue. Candidate A supports funding such care; Candidate B opposes the project and supports increasing State X funding for public hospitals instead. P is the head of the board of elders at Church C, a section 501(c)(3) organization located in District W. At Cs annual fundraising dinner in District W, which takes place in the month before the election, P gives a long speech about health care issues, including the issue of funding for faith-based programs. P does not mention the name of any candidate or any political party. However, at the end of the speech, P makes the following statement, For those of you who care about quality of life in District W and the desire of our community for health care responsive to their faith, there is a very important choice coming up next month. We need more funding for health care. Increased public hospital funding will not make a difference. You have the power to respond to the needs of this community. Use that power when you go to the polls and cast your vote in the election for your state senator. C has violated the political campaign intervention prohibition as a result of Ps remarks at Cs official function shortly before the election, in which P referred to the upcoming election after stating a position on an issue that is a prominent issue in a campaign that distinguishes the candidates.
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). Candidates may also appear without an invitation at organization events that are open to the public.
I might also make one additional note here.
One very clear way that a “church” can get rid of *all* IRS oversight on these issues and that the church can even endorse candidates, if they want to and give donations from the church to candidates and give donations from the church to political campaigns and issues... is for the church to completely dump their 501 (c) (3) designation.
Then they have no limitations.
It would seem — to me — that “greed” may be the factor in churches *not getting out from under* the IRS guidelines...
No one seems to mention that one...