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Does the Church jeopardize its tax exempt status by becoming involved in politics? Is it afraid to lose its status?

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The Church’s teaching on how we should function in society and civic life stems from its teaching, not from the tax code of any one nation. Nonetheless, there are considerations as to tax status, our pluralistic society, practical situations and common civic practices which ought to be kept in mind.

The Internal Revenue Service code provides that organizations exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) and described in section 501(c)(3), may not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” These organizations are also restricted from devoting a substantial part of their activities to attempting to influence legislation (Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended).

These restrictions are not based on whether an organization is a religious organization or church, but whether it is exempt from paying federal income tax.

The restriction on non-profits regarding involvement for a political candidate or campaign is absolute and can include a wide range of activities, from voter guides to taking pictures with candidates. The restriction regarding the amount of lobbying that constitutes “a substantial part of their activities” is determined on a case-by-case basis by the IRS.

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