Attorney: Churches can oppose legislation, gather referenda signatures
IC News: Are California churches violating IRS rules regarding political activity by gathering signatures on the AB1266 referendum?
Pacific Justice Institute (a California-based Constitutional rights law firm):
The two main rules churches need to know about are fairly straightforward:
First, churches and other 501(c)(3) nonprofits may get directly involved in opposing or supporting legislation, including citizen ballot initiatives and referenda. This means that churches can not only allow signature gathering, but can unapologetically endorse or oppose such measures from the pulpit.
The IRS requires that this type of political involvement not become a "substantial" part of the churches total time and resource, but in practical terms, even churches that are very active in legislative issues spend only a tiny percentage of their total budget, church service time, etc., on these issues and therefore are on safe ground.
The second major thing churches need to know is that the IRS says nonprofits cannot endorse or oppose particular people running for office, or political parties. It is noteworthy that the IRS has not sought to enforce this rule against churches in several years, and PJI believes a strong case can be made that the rule is unconstitutional, but churches should be aware that this rule is at least on the books.
Matthew B. Reynolds
Pacific Justice Institute www.pji.org
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Express faith in class work: The U.S. Department of Education defines religious liberties in public schools
1. You can pray, read your Bible or other religious material, and talk about your faith at school: "Students may pray when not engaged in school activities or instruction ... students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other non-instructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities.
2. You can organize prayer groups and religious clubs, and announce your meetings: "Students may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, and "See You at the Pole" gatherings before school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other non-curricular student activities groups. Such groups must be given the same access to school facilities for assembling as is given to other non-curricular groups, without discrimination because of the religious content of their expression.
School authorities possess substantial discretion concerning whether to permit the use of school media for student advertising or announcements regarding non-curricular activities. However, where student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce their meetings -- for example, by advertising in a student newspaper, making announcements on a student activities bulletin board or public address system, or handing out leaflets -- school authorities may not discriminate against groups who meet to pray."
3. You can express your faith in your class work and homework: "Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Thus, if a teacher's assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards (such as literary quality) and neither penalized nor rewarded on account of its religious content."
-- Excerpts provided by Gateways to Better Education www.ReligiousFreedomDay.com; For legal help, visit www.TellADF.org or call 800.TELL-ADF. For the complete document explaining students' religious liberties, visit www.Ed.gov.
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