Campaign Activity by Churches: Legal Analysis of Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, H.R. 235 (108th Congress) [June 16, 2003] [open pdf - 30KB]
"Churches and other Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations can lose their tax-exempt status if they participate in a political campaign. The Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, H.R. 235 (108th Congress) would permit churches to engage in limited types of political campaign activity, in unlimited amounts, without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. It would amend the IRC so that churches could not lose their tax-exempt status 'because of the content, preparation, or presentation of any homily, sermon, teaching, dialectic, or other presentation made during religious services or gatherings.' H.R. 235 is similar in purpose to the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, H.R. 2357 (107th Congress), although the 107th Congress bill took a different approach. H.R. 2357 received a floor vote on October 2, 2002, and failed to pass by a vote of 178 to 239. Both these bills appear to have been introduced in response to 'Branch Ministries v. Rossotti', 211 F.3d 137 (D.C. Cir. 2000), where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the authority of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that engage in prohibited campaign activities. This report provides an overview of current tax and campaign finance law relevant to this legislation, a discussion of how H.R. 235 (108th Congress) would amend current law, and a comparison of H.R. 235 (108th Congress) to H.R. 2357 (107th Congress) This report will be updated as developments occur."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21549
U.S. Department of State: http://www.state.gov/