A Special Message for Pastors, Churches,
and Concerned Christian Citizens!
What Can Pastors Say From the Pulpit About Candidates and Elections?
Guidelines Concerning Political Activity
Recently many pastors and churches across Missouri received a letter from the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. This letter is a regular intimidation tactic by this atheist organization designed to silence the voice of pastors and churches prior to a Presidential election.
The letter suggests that pastors may not legally make any statements that could be construed to influence the outcome of an election. The letter also strongly insinuates that pastors may not allow the distribution of voter guides without the possible loss of their church's tax-exempt status. These statements are false.
Here are the central legal guidelines concerning the activity of pastors and churches relating to candidates and elections:
*Churches may not support or oppose political candidates, nor may pastors endorse or oppose political candidates on behalf of the churches they pastor.
*Pastors may speak about the issues of the day, the actions of government, and the actions of public officials in the government.
*Pastors may speak about the stands of candidates on issues of concern to the church and the community of faith, as long as they do not encourage a vote for or against any particular candidate.
*Pastors may speak about the platforms of the political parties on issues of concern to the church and the community of faith, as long as they do not encourage a vote for or against a political party.
*Churches can sponsor voter registration activities and voter turnout activities.
*Pastors can encourage members of their congregation to vote for candidates who respect and reflect Biblical values, so long as they do not mention any particular candidates by name.
*Churches can distribute voter guides so long as the guides are neutral and have been approved for use by 501(c)3 organizations. Such guides can list responses of candidates to questionnaires, or the voting records and stands of candidates for office, so long as the guides do not indicate agreement or disagreement with those responses, stands, or records.
*Pastors can support and oppose candidates publicly as private citizens so long as their political activity does not occur within the church or in the name of the church.
An issue that often arises during election times is the distribution of political literature on church parking lots. While churches have every right to prohibit the distribution of political fliers on their premises, they have no obligation to halt or prevent the placement of fliers on cars parked on their premises. Churches are not legally responsible for literature distributed without their permission or consent.
The Alliance Defending Freedom has prepared an excellent overview on the subject of churches and political activity. The paper is entitled "Guidelines for 'Political Activities by Churches and Pastors." You can find the guide by clicking this link:
Guidelines for Pastors
Once you reach the website, go to the section which reads "Churches and Politics." Under that section, click the menu item which reads "General Resources," and then choose the item "Guidelines for Political Activities."
Should you have any questions about your legal rights as a pastor or church leader, please contact us at 636-536-0014.
We encourage every pastor and ministry leader to challenge your congregation to vote in accordance with God's Word and Biblical values in this critical election.