Wednesday, March 26, 2008

IRS- Politics & Pulpit

Politics and the Pulpit 2008

A Guide to the Internal Revenue Code Restrictions on the Political Activity of Religious Organizations

Download a printable PDF of the full report (23 pgs.)
During every election cycle, many religious congregations find themselves wondering what role, if any, they can play in the political process. Can a minister, rabbi, imam or other member of the clergy endorse a candidate from the pulpit or speak on political issues of interest to voters? Is a church or other house of worship legally permitted to register voters or distribute voter guides? Answers to these and many other questions are contained here.

This guide sets out in plain English the rules governing political activity that apply to nonprofit organizations (including churches and other religious groups) that are exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The 2008 edition of the guide updates versions previously published by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in 2004 and 2002. The report was written by Deirdre Dessingue, Associate General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Ms. Dessingue is a leading expert on the taxation of religious organizations, and she has written a straightforward and practical guide to the law on these matters. The report also has been vetted by a number of other prominent legal experts in this field.

The current rules have been in place since 1954, when Congress amended the Internal Revenue Code to impose limits on the political activities of religious groups and certain other tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. In recent years, some have voiced strong opposition to these limits, especially as they are applied to religious groups, arguing that they amount to an unfair abridgement of free speech. Others, including some religious leaders, have vigorously defended the rules, asserting that they correctly prevent churches from getting too deeply involved in partisan politics.

The Forum takes no position in this or any other policy debate. The Forum commissioned this publication solely to better inform religious groups and others on the provisions and meaning of the law as it is currently written. The Forum's overall mission is to deliver timely, impartial information on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs.

Politics and the Pulpit is published with the understanding that the Forum is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. If legal advice or other professional assistance is required, the services of a qualified professional should be sought.

Note: Throughout this document, the term “churches” refers to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other religious congregations. The term “religious organizations” has a broader meaning, including both churches and other types of religious organizations that are exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

This report is in question-and-answer format. Use the menu below to go to a particular section of the report or to a specific question. A selected bibliography is available in the PDF version.

1.Where do the restrictions on religious organizations' participation in the political process come from?

2.Has this prohibition on political campaign intervention always been part of the Internal Revenue Code?

3.Are religious organizations singled out by the political campaign intervention prohibition in the Internal Revenue Code?

4.Doesn't the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protect the right of religious organizations to engage in political activity?
IRS Restrictions on Political Intervention and Lobbying

5.What political activities are prohibited under the Internal Revenue Code?

6. Must religious organizations restrict their discussion of issues during election campaign periods?

7. When would an issue discussion violate the political campaign intervention prohibition?

8. Are religious organizations permitted to engage in lobbying activities?

9. Are religious organizations permitted to participate in referenda, constitutional amendments and similar ballot initiatives?

10. What are the consequences if a religious organization engages in excessive lobbying?

11. Does the political campaign intervention prohibition apply to the political activities of clergy and other religious leaders?

12.When are the political activities of clergy or other religious leaders attributed to their religious organizations?

13. Who is considered a candidate?

14.What rules apply with respect to candidates for non-elective office?

15.May candidates appear in pulpits during worship services?

16.What if the candidate appears in a noncandidate capacity?

17. What if the candidate is a member of the clergy?
Voter Education and Outreach

18. May religious organizations become involved in voter education?

19. May religious organizations publish or distribute voter guides?

20. Why must a broad range of issues be covered in voter education materials?

21. May religious organizations publish or distribute legislators' voting records?

22. May religious organizations distribute voter education materials prepared by a candidate, political party or PAC?

23. May religious organizations sponsor candidate forums?

24. May religious organizations conduct voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives?
Religious Organization Facilities and Publications

25. May the facilities of religious organizations be used for civic or political events?

26. Do special rules apply to websites belonging to religious organizations?

27. Do links to candidate-related materials constitute political campaign intervention?

28. May religious organizations sell paid political advertising in their publications?

29. May a religious organization sell or rent its mailing list to a candidate, political party or PAC?

30. What are the penalties if a religious organization violates the political campaign intervention prohibition?

31. Does the IRS target churches for enforcement of the political campaign intervention prohibition?

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.