Churches in Bradenton, Florida are faced with a unique challenge: how to address social and political issues without violating the Internal Revenue Code. The Johnson Amendment of 1954 prohibits churches and other 501 (c) organizations from supporting specific political candidates. However, churches are still allowed to take positions on issues that are important to them and their congregation. This “promotion of issues” can even address issues that are fundamental to a political campaign without breaking the rules.
The California Church Law Center provides churches with the capacity, systems, and resources they need to reach their communities, meet needs, provide hope, and see those lost redeemed in Jesus locally and globally. The Center also helps churches develop policies so that they are better able to address problems as they arise. Organizing volunteers to prepare correspondence for a candidate or soliciting donations on behalf of a campaign can expose churches participating in these activities to risk if they are found to be in violation of the Johnson Amendment. Therefore, it is essential for churches to reflect carefully on how their specific context may affect the appropriateness of devoting significant resources or time to an issue that may be considered partisan.
At Harvest United Methodist Church in Lakewood Ranch, co-pastor and co-chair of the workshop, we seek to name injustices at the Florida United Methodist Church Conference and work for healing and unity. All church members involved in the process are urged to attend, along with community leaders, law enforcement, and other stakeholders. In conclusion, churches in Bradenton, Florida can still participate in non-partisan political activities without violating IRS rules. However, they must be mindful of the dividing line between promoting an issue and endorsing candidates.
By developing policies and reflecting carefully on how their specific context may affect their actions, churches can address social and political issues without breaking the rules.