Religious organizations and politics?

I put this in GQ because I’m looking for a factual answer on how far religious organizations are permitted to go in politicking.

I’m admittedly not clear on this because I am not religious, do not belong to the Christian religion, no church organization affiliation, and so forth.

Let me give you an example:

There’s a large, fairly new (maybe 5, 6 years old) Christian-religion church in the city and I drive by it daily on the way back from work. It has a really large, very visible electronic marquee with scrolling messages.

A sample of some of those messages that scroll on the marquee:

“Pray for our American troops!”

(superimposed over an image of a waving American flag) “One Nation, Under God”
(also superimposed over an image of a waving American flag) “Christian Nation”

I remember on voting day a while back (local races, not national) the marquee scrolled, “Make sure to vote and vote your conscience! Call XXX-XXXX for voting locations!”

Other times, it’s got short little bible verses and other quotations, but it regularly scrolls the “Pray for our troops” and “One Nation Under God”. I see it all the time.

Is this church violating any separation of church and state tenets? Sorry, I don’t mean to turn this into a debate. I’m just curious.

The concept of separation of church and state imposes restrictions on the state, not the church.

That is correct and basically all there is to it when it comes to churches giving messages to the congregation or even the general public.

I thought that to retain its tax-exempt status, a religious organization is not allowed to directly endorse any candidate or party, so it’s not as though there aren’t any restrictions at all. However, it doesn’t sound like the church billboard you mention crosses the line on that front.

Churches are prohibited from electioneering for any specific candidate or party. It is not illegal, but doing so can lose them their tax exemption.

Nothing of what you describe falls into that category. There will always be some questions about where the boundary lies, but mere affirmations of patriotism or calls toward voting are very far from that line. Even calling America a Christian nation is well within the boundaries of what is acceptable.

I gotcha. I remembered the part about churches endorsing specific candidates/political parties and the tax-exempt status thing, but was unclear on whether it was just the tax-exempt status or whether there was another component to it.

Thanks, all!