September 26, 2008

Pastors Who Put Congregations at Risk

Some pastors are being tempted to put their congregations at risk this Sunday.

This Sunday is Alliance Defense Fund's "Pulpit Initiative". ADF has encouraged pastors to use the day to challenge Internal Revenue Service restrictions on churches (and other non-profits) that preclude them from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Read more in the Toledo Blade or in this blog by Howard M. Friedman, Professor of Law Emeritus, on his Religion Clause blog.

You may ask, "What difference will it make if our pastor endorses a political candidate from our pulpit?" The Church could lose its tax-exempt status if they participate in political campaigns or endorse political candidates.

The next question becomes: "What difference would it make if our church lost its tax-exempt status?" Richard R. Hammar, who produces Church Law and Tax Report, lists a number of consequences in this article. Among the consequences listed are: churches income subject to taxation; donors could no longer deduct charitable contributions made to the church; loss of preferential mailing rates; and loss of exemption from property tax.

As Hammar concludes, "Clearly, any activity that jeopardizes a church's exemption from federal income taxation is a matter that must be taken seriously." We would hope that no pastor would put their church at such a risk without the full knowledge and support of the entire congregation.