Pastors Can Speak Out On U.S. Election Issues

Pastors and church leaders do not need to violate IRS regulations on political activity in order to impact the 2008 elections. There are a wide variety of permissible activities that will activate voters and encourage them to vote according to biblical values.

While churches may not endorse or oppose candidates for elective office, pastors can preach on biblical and moral issues, such as abortion and traditional marriage, can urge the congregation to register and vote, and can overview the positions of the candidates. Churches may distribute nonpartisan voter guides, register voters, provide transportation to the polls, hold candidate forums, and introduce visiting candidates.

Since 1954, when the political endorsement/opposition prohibition was added to the Internal Revenue Code ("IRC"), only one church has ever lost its IRS letter ruling, but even that church did not lose its tax-exempt status. Churches, unlike other nonprofit organizations, do not need an IRS letter ruling to be tax-exempt. That case involved the Church at Pierce Creek in New York, which placed full-page ads in USA Today and the Washington Times opposing then-Governor Bill Clinton for President. The ads were sponsored by the church and donations were solicited. The IRS revoked the church's letter ruling, but not its tax-exempt status.

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