Our clients often ask whether they can participate in legislative and political activity. While we encourage clients to lobby on behalf of their interests within the limits prescribed by law (see our previous post), 501(c)(3) organizations cannot engage in activity that supports or opposes candidates for public office.
As you know from reading our previous post, the IRS has, in typical fashion, increased its scrutiny of nonprofit organizations engaging in political activity during this presidential election cycle.
Notwithstanding, it appears to us that at least a few religious organizations per election cycle can’t help themselves. According to Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church delivered a sermon denouncing President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. Lynn argues that the speech was meant to convince congregants not to vote for President Obama (see Lynn’s whole letter to the IRS and watch portions of Worley’s sermon).
It is unclear yet whether the IRS is going to get involved in this matter. In the meantime, it is crucial to speak with legal counsel familiar with exempt organizations to ensure that your organization is not engaging in illegal activity.