The race is on for the White House and it began with excitement last week in Iowa. Tomorrow it's New Hampshire's turn, and on February 5, "Super Tuesday," near half of the country will be voting to select the Democratic and Republican nominees. With one of the most open races in recent history many Christians are still undecided, and some are looking to their church and pastors for direction. Should the church wade into the murky waters of politics? And if it does what is the risk? Allen R. Bevere, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Ohio, and contributor to RedBlueChristian.com, has written to share what a church is legally allowed to do in this political season.
The Associated Press has reported that several pastors in Iowa, who have publicly supported Governor Mike Huckabee for President have received anonymous letters warning them that their churches are in danger of losing their nonprofit status. The fact that the letters are anonymous means that they are probably from someone opposed to Huckabee, who wants to silence these ministers who support him.
There is great misunderstanding, even in government, as to what tax-exempt status does and does not mean in reference to what churches are and are not allowed to say and do when it comes to politics and elections in particular.
First, for some history:
Historically there was no law in the United States restricting any church or other nonprofit organization from endorsing or opposing a candidate for political office.
In 1954, after being opposed by a nonprofit organization, then Senator Lyndon Johnson proposed legislation prohibiting nonprofits from either opposing or endorsing any candidate (which did not and still does not apply to appointed offices such ...