This Sunday, September 26, 2010, churches across the country will participate in an event known as Pulpit Freedom Sunday. This event, organized and promoted by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian right legal group based in Arizona, provides a forum for pastors to abuse their tax-exempt status and openly endorse or oppose candidates for office from the pulpit. The annual event violates federal tax law and church leaders would be wise to refrain from participating.
IRS regulations specify that 501(c)(3) organizations, which include churches and other religious organizations, are prohibited from “[participating in or intervening in]…any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Rev. Rul. 2007-41, 2007-25 I.R.B. (June 28, 2007). While leaders of churches or religious organizations may express their opinions on political matters as individuals, they are precluded from making “partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization.” Id. Current law clearly prohibits pastors from endorsing candidates from the pulpit.
FFRF asks members of the public to report any abuses arising out of Sunday’s event. FFRF has a detailed FAQ regarding churches and political activity. Please contact FFRF’s legal department with any questions or concerns.