501(c)(3) is the section of the IRS Code that deals with charitable organizations such as churches. The rules under this code allow those of us who contribute to these organizations to claim a deduction for such contributions when we file our taxes, if they meet certain thresholds.
The church also is free from taxation on the contributions it collects.
In exchange for this noninvolvement of government in church affairs (see Article 1 in the Bill of Rights) there are rules regarding the noninvolvement of the church in government.
Seems fair doesn’t it? The rule reads in part, (a church) “may not be an action organization, i.e. it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”
Churches that violate the regulation can lose their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, and the contributors can lose their tax deduction for contributions as well.
I found it very disturbing to observe Tony Perkins and others at a meeting of the Family Research Council vigorously advocating that churches ignore the rules and campaign openly for candidates. These are not Jim Crow type unconstitutional laws.
These are laws regarding the separation of church and state that are one of the pillars supporting our democracy. Church members of all people should be law abiding and “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”
I find it equally disturbing that some of our local politicians violated the rules so blatantly during the last election cycle. Some of those same folks have been soliciting speaking engagements at church services recently. This cavalier attitude toward the law should be an automatic disqualifier for public office.
Any church leader should think twice about allowing such illegal activity and jeopardizing the tax exempt status of their church and the deduction status for their contributors.