Responsible Citizenship Church Advocacy
Tax Exemption Do’s and Don’ts
Parishes and other IRS-designated section 501(c)(3) church organizations are prohibited from participating in partisan political campaign activity, such as telling people to vote for a particular candidate, but may fully engage in issue advocacy without violating tax exemption status rules. This means, a parish may not advocate for a particular political party or candidate.
Do’s – Activities that are Allowed and Encouraged
According to the USCCB Office of General Counsel, certain activities generally are appropriate for parishes and other Catholic organizations:
- Address the moral and human dimensions of public issues
- Encourage civic engagement and voting
- Share Church teaching on human life, human dignity, the common good, justice and peace.
- Apply Catholic values to legislation and public issues.
- Educate on proposed legislation and ballot measures, including constitutional amendments
- Non-partisan voter education, including results of candidate polls or surveys, that (1) is consistent with church teaching on political responsibility; (2) covers a wide range of issues important to voters; and (3) exhibits no bias for or against any candidate or party.
- Conduct a non-partisan voter-registration drive on Church property
Don’ts – Activities to Avoid
The USCCB Office of General Counsel advises that parishes should not:
- Endorse or oppose candidates for political office, political parties, or groups of candidates, or take any action that reasonably could be construed as endorsement or opposition
- Make available the use of church facilities, assets, or members for partisan political purposes
- Conduct voter registration slanted toward one party
- Authorize distribution of partisan campaign materials or biased voter education materials (those that support or oppose—or exhibit bias for or against—any candidate or party) on church property, in church publications, or at church activities
- Invite or permit only selected candidates to address your members
- Arrange for groups to work for a candidate for public office
In summary, priests and other parish personnel can – and should – talk about the issues fully, as well as prompting people to overcome the temptation to tune out and, instead, get engaged.
Guidelines derived from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
For more information see:
Candidate Appearances: In an election year, candidates for public office seek occasions to promote their campaigns before large audiences Checking with VA Catholic Conference for permission to use their summary
Signs on Church Property: Checking with VA Catholic Conference for permission to use their summary