Religious Expression and Advocacy
In a guest post from the Wagenmaker & Oberly LLC Blog by Sally Wagenmaker, Jon Hwang, and Ryan Oberly, they investigate just how much (or little) the government is allowed to control churches in and out of election seasons.
How should responsible nonprofits be organized under the Internal Revenue Code if they wish to educate, inform, and advocate on politically sensitive issues within the public arena? This article is intended to help nonprofit leaders to answer these questions, so that they can be encouraged to speak up on important issues in the public arena without being chilled in their free speech activities or jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.
Are nonprofits allowed to participate in political activities? What about religious and other nonprofit leaders who feel compelled to speak up about economic and moral issues raised in election campaigns?
Since the mid-1950s, religious, educational, and charitable organizations have been prohibited from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Nonprofits are allowed to engage in a very limited amount of legislative lobbying, and their workers may express their own personal views. The election prohibition, however, is absolute. So how can responsible nonprofits act appropriately in compliance with applicable rules? The following questions and answers address these and related questions regarding prohibited political campaign activity.