I am an attorney and have been advising or serving on governing boards of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, including faith-based organizations, for more than 30 years. Now, 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for elective public office.
Accordingly, governing boards of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, including churches, may not contribute to political campaigns, allow signs for or against candidates for public office on their property, or in any other manner support or oppose a candidate.
This law has served nonprofit organizations and the public very well. Nonprofit organizations use donated funds to impartially serve all people in the community, all people in need, and all members of a congregation in a totally nonpartisan manner.
However, section 5201 of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H. R. 1), which the House of Representatives recently passed, would change all that. It would allow nonprofit organizations to participate, support, or intervene in a campaign for elective office. If this provision is included in the final version of legislation and is signed into law, pastors, priests, rabbis, and imams can preach from the pulpit in favor or against a political candidate; a 501(c)(3) nonprofit can use contributions to support or oppose candidates for public office; and political donations can be “laundered” through churches and other nonprofit organizations for political purposes.
It would not take long for candidates to “lean” on nonprofit organizations, including faith-based organizations, for money and endorsements. And, it would not take long for nonprofit organizations to lose the trust of donors and the public. It would be a lose-lose result.
I urge all who are troubled about this legislation to express their concerns to Sen. John Hoeven, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer.
Murray Sagsveen, Bismarck