Religion and churches will play a big role in the coming city election. But church leaders must take care to avoid saying things to their congregations that could endanger their tax-exempt status, an expert said Friday.
"Ministers are not allowed to endorse candidates from the pulpit," said Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact.
Her Austin-based group is governed by church officials and its mission is to encourage people of faith to be politically active within legal guidelines.
"One of the jobs of people of faith is to vote," Moorhead said. "That is the core civic responsibility."
Church leaders should encourage congregants to vote -- but not whom to vote for, Moorhead said.
As the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life put it, "Religious organizations, as well as all other organizations exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, are prohibited from participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office."
Many churches also conduct businesses of various sorts--pancake breakfasts, bingo, tax-prep, cheeseburr-ger bar-be-ques, Confederacy celebration days, shofar and/or Donny Osmond-impression nite, etc-- on church property. That would seem to violate the exemption status as well. CHEESE UH BURRGER?One-uh CHEESE UH BURRGER and uh PEPSI.