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Can a pastor speak out on the election? You’ll be surprised

Every election cycle, confusion abounds about how a church or pastor can be involved in the civic life of their community while not stepping across the lines outlined by the IRS and FEC. This confusion causes distress among congregants as well as pastors. Congregations often have expectations that may or may not be legal while pastors seem increasingly hesitant to say or do anything at all in an over abundance of caution. The Liberty Counsel has provided the following guidance when it comes to political candidates and elections and what is permissible by law in your church and by your pastor. The information was written by Mathew D. Stayer, Esq. and passes all legal tests so that your church and pastor can rest assured they are on the up-and-up when it comes to elections. For more information pastors can call 800-671-1776 or visit www.LC.org

POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE GUIDELINES FOR YOUR PASTOR AND CHURCH DURING AN ELECTION

SUPPORTING OR OPPOSING CANDIDATES

Endorsing or opposing political candidates: Church: No    Pastor: Yes

Contributions to political candidate: Church: No    Pastor: Yes

In-kind and independent expenditures for or against political candidates: Church: No      Pastor: Yes

Contributions to Political Action Committees: Church: No      Pastor: Yes

Appearance of political candidate at church meeting or service: Church: Yes       Pastor: N/A

Introduction of political candidates at church: Church: Yes      Pastor: Yes

Political candidate to preach or read scripture (contributions should not be solicited and message should not urge people to vote for the candidate): Church: Yes       Pastor: N/A

Voter registration programs and campaigns (non-partisan)Church: Yes       Pastor: Yes

Distribution of candidate surveys and incumbent voting records: Church: Yes        Pastor: Yes

Distribution in church parking lot of political statements and opinions on political issues (so long as no church endorsement): Church: Yes       Pastor: N/A

Rent or loan church mailing lists to political candidates (list must be made available to all candidates on similar terms and prices: Church: Yes         Pastor: N/A

SUPPORTING OR OPPOSING CANDIDATES

Church bulletin political ads at regular price and news stories: Church: Yes      Pastor: N/A

Church bulletin editorial where the pastor or staff member endorses or opposes a candidate: Church: No    Pastor: NO

Church bulletin editorial regarding political issues or two different church members take opposing views on a candidate:  Church: Yes      Pastor: N/A

Use of church facilities by political candidates (if all other candidates are allowed or invited): Church: Yes      Pastor: N/A

Fund-raising for candidates: Church: No    Pastor: Yes

Campaigning for candidates: Church: No    Pastor: Yess

Educate members of the public about viewpoints of candidates: Church: Yes     Pastor: Yes

Discuss church doctrine pertaining to candidate views such as abortion, homosexuality and marriage: Church: Yes     Pastor: Yes

Granting use of name to support a candidate: Church: No*      Pastor: Yes*

*A pastor may include title and church affiliation in a personal endorsement along with the following notation: “Title and affiliation for identification purposes.”

–Compiled by Mathew D. Staver, Esq., Liberty Counsel

 

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