Yes, It’s Against The Rules For Churches To Have Political Signs in Michigan
We are just a month away from election day in Michigan, and things are getting heated. There are several "big things" that could be sending Michiganders to the polls on Tuesday, November 8th. From the governor's race, to local needs, and a proposition on women's rights: everyone has an opinion on what you should be doing when you get to the ballot box.
But you know who isn't allowed to share their opinion? Your (or any) tax-exempt church.
But, doesn't the United States have freedom of religion?
Absolutely! However, that freedom also includes the freedom from religion, and the rights to not have our opinions tainted or swayed by political and non-profit groups.
However, due to a law passed in 1954 by congress, groups (such as churches and non-profits) who do not pay taxes and claim themselves at 501(c)3 organizations cannot lobby, advocate or promote any politician or proposition.
How can churches break this law?
The law as written and stated by the IRS says "Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one "which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."
This means if your church has a sign for a candidate, or in the case of this church in East GR, a sign that promotes a position on a proposition, you're in violation of this rule.
(yes, We see you breaking the rules brazenly, Immaculate Heart of Mary)
What happens if a church breaks this law?
Well, it's not exactly as dramatic as breaking other laws for you and me. No one is going to show up, storm the service, and demand people leave.
Instead, not following these rules could lose a church's tax exempt status, causing them to have to pay more to the IRS. The thought behind this law is that, if you're trying to influence the government, you should be paying your share into it. Otherwise, you're a public service and should not be swaying partisan public opinion.
If a church gives up their tax exempt status, can they post signs?
Yes, although most churches won't do this, there have been some in the past that have given up their rights to skip their tax bill to be able to share their opinions to their congregation.
Can I report any organization or church I see breaking this rule?
Yes- you can! However, just like every other time you deal with the IRS, it's an annoying form filing process. However, you can access the form to submit here.