Ignore the Rumors - Campaigning from the Pulpit is Okay: Thinking Past the Symbolism of Section 501(C)(3)

27 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2006  

Michael Hatfield

University of Washington - School of Law

Abstract

In contrast to prevailing popular and scholarly claims, I argue that federal income tax exemption issues should not necessarily keep churches from partisan campaigning. My claim is that federal income tax exemption for many churches (unlike other tax exempts) may not be worth much. First, even if technically "taxable" most churches would operate without an income tax liability. Second, as only a minority of church donors deduct their donations and, more importantly, because taxable churches could receive politically-motivated as well as religiously-motivated donations, no decrease in donations seems likely (since only churches with politically-enthused members would even consider partisan campaigning). Third, many state and non-tax benefits for churches require neither federal income tax exemption nor political abstinence. My conclusion is that partisan churches ought to consider the federal income tax issues as relevant but not determinative factors when considering whether or not to campaign.

Keywords: 501(c)(3), tax-exempt, campaign, politics, religion, church, Branch Ministries, tax, deductible contributions, donations, 170(c), election, charitable

JEL Classification: H20, K00, K34, L31, L33, L39

Suggested Citation

Hatfield, Michael, Ignore the Rumors - Campaigning from the Pulpit is Okay: Thinking Past the Symbolism of Section 501(C)(3). Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, Vol. 20, p. 125, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=922690

Michael W. Hatfield (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States
206-221-1535 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.washington.edu/Directory/Profile.aspx?ID=725

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