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Slam the Gavel Blog

Political Speech, the IRS, and Churches

Posted by Matthew J. Hornsby on November 5, 2012 at 3:20 PM

          Most people are aware of the fact that churches (as not for profit entities) risk forfeiting their non-profit status if a pastor urges his congregation to vote in a particular way. It’s why your pastor may have urged you to vote, maybe even in a manner reflecting the specific scripture or tenants of your faith, but stopped short of naming the candidate you should vote for. Here is a link to an interesting read about the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement (or lack thereof) of these rules prohibiting churches from endorsing specific candidates for political office.

          The rules prohibiting churches or their leaders from political speech are controversial to many people, for both “religious integrity” and free-speech reasons. However, according to this AP article, the IRS has avoided enforcement of these rules for a number of years. Attorneys involved in these types of cases claim that they are unaware of any investigations into partisan statements by churches during this time. In fact, hundreds of pastors have directly endorsed a candidate from the pulpit and sent a recording to the IRS, in an attempt to force the IRS’s hand (and as protest to the IRS rules). So far, the IRS has never investigated, or even contacted one of these pastors. Very interesting, especially given the intense campaign our country is emerging from.

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