Legal Dos and Don'ts for Pastors and Churches
Mark your calendar for Tuesday, November 7 — the day when Americans have an opportunity to vote in the general election. When we vote, we help determine who will lead our nation, make our laws, and protect our freedoms. Voting is a right, a privilege, and a freedom that millions in other parts of the world can only dream about — and failing to vote violates biblical principles.
Unfortunately, many are confused about what is and what is not legal given the IRS restrictions on political activity by tax-exempt organizations. While it is impossible to lay out a definitive list of dos and don'ts, here are some general guidelines from iVoteValues.com:
DO Preach on moral and social issues and encourage civic involvement
DON'T Endorse candidates on behalf of the church
DO Encourage voter registration and registration activities that avoid promoting any one candidate or particular political party
DON'T Use church funds or services (such as mailing lists or office equipment) to contribute directly to candidates or political committees
DO Distribute educational materials to voters (such as voter guides), but only those that do not favor a particular candidate or party and that cover a wide range of issues
DON'T Permit the distribution of material on church premises that favors any one candidate or political party
DO Conduct candidate or issues forums where each duly qualified candidate is invited and provided an equal opportunity to address the congregation
DON'T Use church funds to pay fees for political events
DON'T Set up a political committee that would contribute funds directly to political candidates
DON'T Allow candidates to solicit funds in a church
DO Invite candidates or elected officials to speak at church services. Churches that allow only one candidate or a single party's candidate to speak can be seen as favoring that candidate or party. No candidate should be prohibited from addressing a church if others running for the same office have been allowed to speak. Exempt from this are candidates or public figures who may speak at a church but refrain from speaking about their candidacy
DO Sermons on moral/social issues and civic involvement
DON'T Endorse or oppose political candidates
DO Educate on political process and social/legislative issues
DON'T Contributions to Political Action Committees
DO Distribution of candidate surveys and incumbent voting records (avoid editorial opinions and make sure they cover a wide range of issues)
DON'T Church bulletin editorial where the pastor or staff member endorses or opposes a candidate
DO Encourage members to voice their opinions in favor or in opposition to certain legislation*
DON'T Campaign for candidates
DO Discuss biblical instruction pertaining to moral and cultural issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.
DON'T Sponsor fundraising for candidates
DO Support or oppose judicial, department, or cabinet appointments
DON'T Grant use of church's name to support a political candidate
DON'T Support or oppose judicial candidates
DO Use of church facilities by political candidates (as long as all other candidates are allowed or invited)
DON'T Contributions to political candidates
DON'T In-kind and independent expenditures for or against political candidates
DO Petition drives supporting or opposing legislation
DO Support or oppose legislation unrelated to the church organization+
DO Support or oppose legislation that directly relates to the organization+
DO Engage in voter registration activities that avoid promoting any one candidate or particular political party
* Churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations may support or oppose legislation so long as such activity comprises an insubstantial part of the overall operation. 501(c)(4) organizations may support or oppose legislation without any limitations.
+ A church or any other 501(c)(3) organization may without limitation support or oppose legislation that directly affects the organizational structure and operation. For example, a church may, without limitation, oppose legislation attempting to repeal the tax exempt status of the church.
Adapted from resources provided by Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice at www.aclj.org. and Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Council at www.lc.org.
Wal-Mart Partners with Homosexual Group
by Erin Roach
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has taken another step away from its family-oriented roots by entering a partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, a move the chamber's president said Wal-Mart initiated.
As part of the deal, Wal-Mart will pay the chamber $25,000 a year for sponsorship of events and initiatives and has agreed to conduct workshops for homosexual business owners on how to break into the Wal-Mart supplier ranks, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times on August 25.
Randy Sharp, a spokesman for the American Family Association, told the Morning News of northwest Arkansas that he has stopped shopping at Wal-Mart because it has moved away from its pro-family stance.
"Up until a year and a half ago, the AFA applauded Wal-Mart for their pro-family policies, but now it seems Wal-Mart has decided to push aside that legacy left by [founder] Sam Walton and joined those who look at the bottom line and stock prices," Sharp said.
Wal-Mart contends the partnership with a homosexual group is in line with the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company's efforts to expand beyond its rural southern roots into urban areas where shoppers are more diverse. Company spokesman Bob McAdam even said Wal-Mart has worked with other homosexual groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Times reported.
"I don't think this is something that will sell on Main Street America, where most Wal-Mart stores are located," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said of the latest move. "I don't think cheap prices on goods from China will be enough to stop a rollback in their customer base if they choose to go down this aisle."
Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, told Cox News Service that Wal-Mart is "validating the idea that homosexual activists have the right to shake down corporations out of fear of being called bigots."
Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor of history at UC Santa Barbara, told the Times that what is happening with Wal-Mart is common in America today.
"Wal-Mart is figuring out how to make itself welcome and amenable in every corner of America's pluralistic society," Lichtenstein said. "Lots of companies once thought of as conservative culturally have made their peace with gay and lesbian rights. It's become a standard corporate thing."