As we have previously posted, 501(c)(3) organizations may not engage in political activity. But what does that really mean?
Actions of a church’s reverend recently gave us another example of what not to do. He wrote a column in the organization’s church bulletin quoting in full a letter criticizing the Obama administration and endorsing Romney.
Leaders of organizations cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications. However, here it seems that the reverend thought he bypassed this rule by quoting someone else or by framing the quote as one about religious freedom, not politics. Either way, he was wrong.
But what will happen to the reverend and to other church leaders that violate these federal laws?
Since 2008, clergy have engaged in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” around election time, when over a thousand pastors around the country endorse candidates from the pulpit. These leaders (who argue that their sermons should not be restricted by federal laws) have never faced repercussions from the IRS. This is likely because the IRS doesn’t have clear procedures on conducting church audits, making it very difficult for the IRS to take any action.