A more than half-century-old federal prohibition on tax-exempt non-profit organizations from endorsing candidates is supposed to be challenged in about 30 church pulpits this Sunday in an effort organized by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale-based legal-advocacy group, Spiritual Life Editor Lawn Griffith noted Thursday on his Tribune blog.
ADF officials hope the effort is the start of a court battle over the 1954 law, which threatens to revoke non-profits' tax exemptions if they support candidates. The conservative ADF and participating clergy believe they will gain a judicial finding that such a law is an unconstitutional restriction on their First Amendment rights. It isn't.
Non-profits such as houses of worship have all the same First Amendment rights any other person or organization has. Only if they choose to be exempt from taxation must they agree to avoid partisanship.
If a house of worship's leaders feel so strongly about electioneering, they can pay taxes as the rest of us do. That may mean raising more funds to pay those taxes, but that's what the rest of us have to do, too.