Published March 13, 2008
This is proving to be a very active political cycle in our state and nation. Many questions have been directed to me concerning the political activity of churches and their leaders.
There are certain guidelines that need to be followed by a church as they express their opinions on moral issues and candidates for elective office.
A church can speak concerning moral issues. Members of a church and the pastor can be politically active, but cannot speak for the church at any time concerning a particular candidate for elective office. A church cannot use their church letterhead to endorse a candidate. The pastor, as a private citizen, can indicate his support for a candidate away from the church property, but never on the property or as a spokesperson for the church. Individual members can endorse candidates and give money of support to candidates as private citizens, but not as a member of a church or a leader within the church. A church cannot donate to a candidate. As a member of a church or a leader, staff member, or pastor, the person does not give up their free speech rights as a private citizen.
The church can sponsor candidates forums on their property as long as they show evidence they have invited every candidate running for the office being discussed in the forum. Every effort needs to be made to assure that all candidates are invited and attend. Should a candidate not be able to attend, the church can go forward with the forum as long as there is clear evidence that every effort was made to have every candidate present for the forum.
Churches, pastors, leaders, and members can speak on any moral issue. For example, the Sunday sale of beer and wine is a moral issue that is being played out in the political arena. The Human Life Amendment is a moral issue regarding the recognition of a child in the womb as a person, so a church can speak on this issue.
Voter Guides can be given out in church as long as all the candidates are listed with their responses to the questions and no one candidate is endorsed in the voter guide.
Please contact me with any questions regarding what a church and the leaders can and cannot do during this election cycle.
Newman can be contacted at (770) 936-5316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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