Congregational Dos and Don'ts for This Election Season

September 4, 2014
As the full force of the 2014 election cycle begins, we are reminded of the importance of participating in our democracy and making our voices heard on the important policy issues of today. We know that as Reform Jews, we have a unique perspective to share. It is also critical at this time to be reminded that religious organizations - including congregations - and other non-profits are granted a special 501(c)3 tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. With the granting of this status comes restrictions on the types of political activities in which religious entities can engage. We want to ensure that all organizations and congregations in our Reform Movement are well-informed of the rules regarding activities during the election year: Congregations and clergy, along with other nonprofit charitable organizations, MAY participate in public policy advocacy (lobbying) to a limited degree. This can include supporting or opposing legislation, ballot initiatives and other governmental actions. However, lobbying activities must be no more than an ‘insubstantial’ part of the total activity of the organization. Non-partisan civic engagement, such as voter registration and education, is not considered lobbying, and is not limited. As a general rule, synagogues and clergy, acting in an official capacity, MAY NOT engage in activities on behalf of, or in opposition to, any particular party or candidate for office at any level of government. You must remain non-partisan; even the perceived appearance of partisanship can result in your 501(c)3 status being revoked. Here is the brief list of Dos and Don'ts for political activities for synagogues and clergy that we have compiled. Please be sure to read through it and contact us for more information or assistance on this matter.      

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