Religious and Denominational Organization Letter


April 4, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
House Democratic Leader
H-204 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Kevin Brady
House Ways and Means Committee
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Richard Neal
Ranking Member
House Ways and Means Committee
1139E Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515


The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader
S-230 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Senate Democratic Leader
S-221 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Orrin Hatch
Senate Committee on Finance
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Ron Wyden
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Finance
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Chairman Brady, Chairman Hatch, Ranking Member Neal, and Ranking Member Wyden:

We, the 99 undersigned religious and denominational organizations strongly oppose any effort to weaken or eliminate protections that prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Current law serves as a valuable safeguard for the integrity of our charitable sector[1] and campaign finance system.

Religious leaders often use their pulpits to address the moral and political issues of the day. They also can, in their personal capacities and without the resources of their houses of worship, endorse and oppose political candidates. Houses of worship can engage in public debate on any issue, host candidate forums, engage in voter registration drives, encourage people to vote, help transport people to the polls and even, with a few boundaries, lobby on specific legislation and invite candidates to speak. Tax-exempt houses of worship may not, however, endorse or oppose candidates or use their tax-exempt donations to contribute to candidates’ campaigns. Current law simply limits groups from being both a tax-exempt ministry and a partisan political entity.  

As religious organizations, we oppose any attempt to weaken the current protections offered by the 501(c)(3) campaign intervention prohibition because: 

People of faith do not want partisan political fights infiltrating their houses of worship. Houses of worship are spaces for members of religious communities to come together, not be divided along political lines; faith ought to be a source of connection and community, not division and discord. Indeed, the vast majority of Americans do not want houses of worship to issue political endorsements.[2] Particularly in today’s political climate, such endorsements would be highly divisive and would have a detrimental impact  on civil discourse.

Current law protects the integrity of houses of worship. If houses of worship endorse candidates, their prophetic voice, their ability to speak truth to power as political outsiders, is threatened. The credibility and integrity of congregations would suffer with bad decisions of candidates they endorsed. Tying America’s houses of worship to partisan activity demeans the institutions from which so many believers expect unimpeachable decency. 

Current law protects the independence of houses of worship. Houses of worship often speak out on issues of justice and morality and do good works within the community but may also labor to adequately fund their ministries. Permitting electioneering in churches would give partisan groups incentive to use congregations as a conduit for political activity and expenditures. Changing the law would also make them vulnerable to individuals and corporations who could offer large donations or a politician promising social service contracts in exchange for taking a position on a candidate. Even proposals that would permit an “insubstantial” standard or allow limited electioneering only if it is in furtherance of an
organization’s mission would actually invite increased government intrusion, scrutiny, and oversight.

The charitable sector, particularly houses of worship, should not become another cog in a political machine or another loophole in campaign finance laws. We strongly urge you to oppose any efforts to repeal or weaken protections in the law for 501(c)(3) organizations, including houses of worship.


African Americans Ministers in Action

Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Alliance of Baptists

American Baptist Churches USA

American Baptist Home Mission Societies

American Friends Service Committee

American Jewish Committee (AJC)

Anti-Defamation League

Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists

B’nai B’rith International

Baptist Fellowship Northeast

Baptist General Association of Virginia

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America ~ Bautistas por la Paz

Baptist Women in Ministry

Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

California Council of Churches IMPACT

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Christian Life Commission

Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church

Churchnet, a ministry of the Baptist General     Convention of Missouri

Colorado Council of Churches

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Heartland

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Kentucky

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia

Disciples Center for Public Witness

Ecumenical Catholic Communion

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

The Episcopal Church

Equal Partners in Faith

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches

Faith Action Network- Washington State

Faith in Public Life

Faith Voices Arkansas

Faithful America

Florida Council of Churches

Franciscan Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

Hindu American Foundation

Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas

Interfaith Alliance

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

Islamic Networks Group

Islamic Society of North America

Jewish Community Relations Council, Greater Boston

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Jewish Federations of North America

Jewish Women International

Kentucky Council of Churches

Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Baptist Convention of America

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

National Sikh Campaign

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

New Baptist Covenant

North Carolina Council of Churches

Oklahoma Conference of Churches

Pastors for Oklahoma Kids

Pastors for Texas Children

Pax Christi, Montgomery County, MD chapters

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office of Public Witness

Progressive National Baptist Convention

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly

Religions for Peace USA

Religious Institute

Rhode Island State Council of Churches

Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America

South Carolina Christian Action Council

South Dakota Faith in Public Life

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Texas Baptists Committed

Texas Faith Network

Texas Impact

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

Virginia Council of Churches

Women of Reform Judaism

Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

FN1 Some have suggested a desire to remove this safeguard only as it applies to houses of worship and to keep all other 501(c)(3) organizations at the status quo. This path, however, is constitutionally problematic under Texas Monthly v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1 (1989).

FN2 E.g., National Association of Evangelicals, Pastors Shouldn’t Endorse Politicians, Evangelical Leaders Survey (February 2017) (finding 89% of evangelical leaders oppose pastors endorsing candidates from the pulpit); Bob Smietana, Skip the Endorsements in Church, Say Most Americans, LIFEWAY RESEARCH (Sept. 8, 2016) (finding 79% of Americans believe it is inappropriate for a pastor to publicly endorse political candidates during a church service and 75% agreeing that churches should steer clear of endorsements); Daniel Cox, Ph.D. and Robert P. Jones, Ph.D. Majority of Americans Oppose Transgender Bathroom Restrictions, Public Religion Research Institute (March 10, 2017) (finding 71% of Americans and all major religious groups in the county oppose allowing churches to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status).