Some churches take tax risk by preaching politics

For those who attend church this coming Sunday, note whether your pastor or worship leader gives his or her opinion on the upcoming election. Since it is just days away, this Sunday will likely be the day when a pastor, for example, would preach his political opinion if he is going to.

Many churchgoers might wonder what pastor would talk specifics with regards to candidates. But according to a Reuters report, more and more worship leaders are taking explicit political stances before their congregations. In doing so, those men and women are technically violating tax law, not to mention isolating some of their congregation members.

Places of worship are generally tax-exempt businesses. That status, however, is at least somewhat granted by the U.S. tax code due to the lack of party affiliation of the faith-based organizations. When church leaders start advocating certain political candidates or how their congregation should vote, they are pushing the boundaries of tax law.

The IRS could decide to investigate and potentially take action against organizations that preach political specifics, but so far such action is rare. Worship leaders who take the risk to discuss elections and how to vote feel that they should be able to do so as part of freedom of speech. Those who oppose such "freedom of speech" suggest that political talk tends to divide people and that's not what worship time should be about.

How do or would you feel about political preaching within your place of worship? Is it crossing a line, or do you want the guidance of your church?

Source: Reuters, "Hundreds of pastors back political candidates, defy tax rules," Nanette Byrnes, Oct. 7, 2012

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