August 14, 2012


Filed under: Social Gospel — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 1:00 am

Given Jesus’ teachings around civic life and political engagement, I have to wonder what he would have to say about a world that would have been unimaginable to his hearers: A world in which we render unto a Caesar of our choosing, a Caesar whom the people hold accountable, a Caesar who is expected to lead with vision and integrity. In short, to paraphrase a popular saying, HWJV? (How Would Jesus Vote?)

In my work with clergy and lay leaders I have discovered a wide range of beliefs and practices around the church’s role in the electoral process. I have encountered and even wider range of misconceptions and misunderstandings around what the church is and is not permitted to do in relation to electoral politics.

I personally believe that the responsibility associated with the right to vote is a stewardship issue. I do not check my baptism at the threshold of the polling station, nor do I suspend my voting privilege as I pass through the narthex on Sunday.

With this in mind, I commend to you the following sites, which clearly spell out the “cans” and “cannots” of church-sponsored dialogue during this political season. Each site carries the disclaimer that it is not intended to constitute legal advice and should be taken as guidance only. The same applies to my posting them here. They are offered as a starting point toward clarification and appropriate participation.

Internal Revenue Service,,id=154712,00.html

This very readable IRS publication offers not only the official tax code guidelines, but sample scenaria illustrating allowable and inappropriate activities.

Political Guidelines for Churches and Pastors

This booklet, published by Concerned Woman for America, puts religious influence on American politics into historical perspective while offering a clear and user-friendly summary of the IRS codes and guidelines.

Iowa Pastors—Civic Guidelines

With a clear focus on allowable activity, this site explains the IRS guidelines in relation to the church’s role in voter education. It also provides some specific suggestions on how church leaders might incorporate voter education into the existing adult formation and fellowship structures.

Freedom from Religion Foundation

As the sponsor’s name implies, this site focuses on the “cannots” of church participation in the political process. I include it, however, because it is the only site I found that explicitly addresses “Ballot Initiatives or Referendum.” With important questions anticipated on the November ballot in the State of Maine, this information is particularly important to Maine congregations.


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