Non-profit status: Political signs on church property?

Is this church risking losing their non-profit status by having a bunch of signs on their property, implying support for those candidates? The church is also a polling place but the signs are outside the legal minimum distance from the door, so that much is cool.

Which church would that be?

I think they would be in the clear if they permitted anyone running to post a sign for people voting there to look at - that wouldn’t be seen as an endorsement in any sane world. I have seen this in many polling places in Pennsylvania, where oftentimes churches were used as polling stations. I don’t recall this ever being an issue for the reason I just stated.

A church near my house has two “Yes on 8” signs out front.

Ballot measures aren’t party slates or candidates - I don’t think an explicit endorsement of these presents any kind of constitutional issue.

A church near me, my polling place actually, had two Yes On 2 signs. I say had because I accidentally tripped over both of them when I was walking past there this morning and ruined them.

I dunno. I can’t keep Evangelicals straight. Berean something.

I talked to one of the elders and he seems to think they were put up by the poll workers. Dupage County used to be the Republican answer to Chicago and Cook County, but I don’t think things work like that here anymore. I think it’s more like somebody stuck all their leftover signs there yesterday and the management didn’t teake them away. I didn’t try sticking a sign for a Dem there as an experiment to see if it would be yanked.

As we both know this world isn’t sane, so I put nuttin’ past nobody. I called over there in a spirit of friendly warning. I may not agree with them, politically or theologically, but they’re good neighbors and I don’t want them to get in trouble for something an over-enthusiastic person did unofficially.

The basic rule, as I understand it, is that non-profit religious institutions can’t endorse a candidate or party. They can express opinions about political issues:

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=154712,00.html

They can also lobby, but there are limits on their lobbying activities: http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=163392,00.html

http://www.catholicconferenceofillinois.org/bins/site/ftp/Guidelines-politicialactivities_asof12-20-07_FINAL.pdf

http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/3341/1/48?TopicID=2

So you are saying that having the signs there, even if placed by an unknown third party, is an implied endorsement of those candidates, Gfactor?

I’m not sure there’s much guidance on that particular issue. I misread your OP (I thought you were asking about issue advocacy even though you clearly weren’t) and I hadn’t seen your last post when I made mine.

Church officials seem to think it’s risky enough to warn their clergy: “DO NOT allow campaign signs to be placed on your church property.” http://www.wncclay.org/2008Elections.dsp
and see,

http://divinity.wfu.edu/rpa/cep.html

Over here, please.

Y’know, much as I like you guys, I says to myself, I says, “drop? You’re in the office by yourself today. Nobody will care if you leave your phone on ‘speaker’ and broadcast lo-fi classical music until the nice lady from the IRS answers the phone.”

Short answer, yeah, it can cause problems. Nice Lady suggested they move the signs down the street. I suggested they move them to the tennis courts across the street. Elder Joe asked a polling judge if he could just take them down. Judge said, “You can do whatever you want with them It’s your property.”

Here, by the way, is the complete IRS Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf

My polling place is a public school. Today there are signs on the walkway leading to the polling entrance and volunteers handing out literature for various candidates. They’ll all be gone tonight at 7:00 p.m.

If my public school district can allow it without getting in trouble with the IRS, I don’t see why it should be a problem with your church.

Is your public school district recognized as tax exempt under IRC 501©(3)?

It is possible: http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/faqs/html/school501c3.html

But it is unlikely: http://michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-17451_18668_18689-54442--,00.html

If not, that’s a significant difference because the limitations we’ve been discussing apply to entities recognized as tax-exempt under 501©(3).

It would be an interesting case. Churches are tax exempt because of the 1st Amendment, not because of a tax code.

I bet you could make an interesting case against the tax code.

Do you have a citation for this proposition?

Not really. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/branch_ministries.pdf

http://books.google.com/books?id=kjLLlS9hWmYC&pg=PA145&lpg=PA145&dq=Christian+Echoes+National+Ministry,+Inc.+v.+United+States&source=web&ots=OcmIbnx9rp&sig=qGbvIosrrbv4agG-0cseuUcJEp4