Political Campaigning by Churches and Charities: Hazardous for 501(C)(3)S; Dangerous for Democracy
Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper No. 58
52 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2006 Last revised: 20 Jun 2014
Date Written: 2007
Nonprofit section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating or intervening in an election on behalf of a candidate for public office. Despite this prohibition, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations have become increasingly active in political campaigns. Many organizations are either ignoring the political campaign ban or are using "issue discussion" or "lobbying" as a means of promoting candidates and testing the limits of the prohibition. Current scholarship surrounding the political campaign ban argues that the ban is either unconstitutional or inappropriate as a matter of public policy. This article argues that the ban is both meritorious and constitutional. It argues that taxpayer subsidized section 501(c)(3) organizations should not be permitted to intervene in political campaigns and that allowing them to do so will pose significant risks for the democratic system in the United States. It further argues that enforcement efforts with regard to the political campaign ban should be made public and delegated to an independent commission, outside the IRS, charged with enforcing campaign related prohibitions in the Internal Revenue Code.
Keywords: Establishment Clause, First Amendment, charitable, religious
JEL Classification: H20, H22, H29, K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation