Before each election, an extremist organization representing liberal leaning churches in Iowa sends out a letter to intimidate pastors in Iowa and keep them from speaking out about moral issues facing voters.
To help pastors find their voice without worry of losing their church’s tax exempt status, we are printing the following guidelines from the James Madison Center for Free Speech in association with the Alliance Defense Fund:
1) A pastor may individually and personally endorse candidates for political office.
2) A church may not endorse candidates for political office, and a pastor may not endorse candidates on behalf of the church.
3) A pastor may allow his name to be used as a supporter of a candidate in the candidate’s own political advertisements. In this connection, the pastor may be identified as pastor of a particular church, if it is indicated that this is for identification purposes only and if it is indicated that the endorsement is by the pastor personally and not by the church.
4) Churches may engage in non-partisan voter registration, voter identification, get out the vote, and voter education activities so long as such activities are not intended for the supporters of any particular candidate or political party.
5) A church may distribute a voter guide regarding candidates’ positions on various issues or a scorecard reporting on the voting records of incumbents. In such publications, the church or pastor may not state whether the candidate’s position or vote is consistent with the church’s.
6) A church or pastor is free to state the position of a candidate on any issue and may comment on that position (including praising or criticizing the candidate for it).
7) A church may allow political candidates to speak on church premises; however, all candidates should be invited and given equal opportunity to speak. A candidate should not be allowed to appeal to a church congregation at a church service for funds to be used in his political campaign and no member of the church should endorse a candidate in conjunction with the candidate’s visit.
8) Church facilities may be used by political candidates on the same basis that civic groups are allowed to. If civic groups are required to pay some candidates for use in seeking support or raising funds only if rented at fair market value.
9) Lists of members of the church congregation may be provided to candidates for use in seeking support or raising funds only if rented at fair market value.
10) A church may not establish a political action committee.
11) Pastors and other like-minded individuals may establish a political action committee, but care should be taken that the committee is separate from the church and does not use the assets of the church.
For more information visit: James Madison Center