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gender & sexuality | police / legal oregon elections 2004

Is it "legal" for churches to display campaign signs?

I saw a HUGE yes on 36 sign on the lawn of a local Baptist church. While I agree with their right to hate anyone they want, I thought it was illegal for churches to endorse candidates.
So this really is a question. Does anyone know if it is legal for them to have that sign?
blurp 15.Oct.2004 13:49


A proposition or ballot initiative's not a candidate, dude. As regards the legality, I'm unsure, but why would it be illegal? Advocating a political viewpoint doesn't violate church/state separation . . .

YES, IT'S ILLEGAL 15.Oct.2004 14:04


that doesn't mean a thing to those kind of fundaloonies/religiloonies!
I wouldn't be surprised if Jason Sery's church in Beaverton is the culprit? Are they?????

Maybe, depends 15.Oct.2004 14:18

teddy ruxpin (the lousy typist)

I dug through the IRS documents on this, and did some googleing. Basically, some churches are under 501 (c) 3 status, which means they can be involved in politics as long as an insubstantial amount of their resources go to the activity and they do not favor a candidate (I could not find any reference to non-human candidates like ballot measures, I assume they are one and the same). Some churches are not 501 (C) 3 groups, and just go through the IRS examination of their structure to be declared tax exempt, and thus have a bit different status. They are supposed to be 100% non-political.

Without knowing which of these the church went with, we don't know what restrictions they are under. If they are under the right tax code, they are OK, but the IRS is pretty active in going after these churches if they are in the wrong.

Want to do something about this? My advice is to take a photo of the sign, print it and mail it to the IRS.

Those Signs Aren't Free 15.Oct.2004 19:02

Cheney Watch

Betcha they bought the sign. Every ballot measure and major candidate is selling their signs this year. The big presidential signs sell for $100; ballot measure banners (unless they made it themselves) probably cost, too.

If they used church funds to buy a political banner, I think it would be safe to say that they might be in deep doo doo.

This also assumes that everyone in the congregation agrees with the sentiments of the banner. Do they ALL agree? If I attended services there and didn't, I wouldn't be a happy camper. But then again, if I disagreed with someone who would go as far as erecting a banner on the church lawn, I wouldn't belong to that congregation in the first place.

to restate 15.Oct.2004 19:29


i've said this before... but before we go freaking out about church involvement in politics, please remember that the very very progressive fights have come from the church. civil rights, pro-peace, local grassroots organizing, fights against the death penalty, etc etc... many of the great social justice movements today were forged in church basements...

Not About Separation of Church and State 15.Oct.2004 20:00


Forging a movement in a basement is one thing. Claiming tax exempt status when acting openly as a political organization is another. There's also a problem with preaching politics from the pulpit. I say they should have to play by the rules, especially since they made them.

Americans United: Church Electioneering 15.Oct.2004 22:09


Churches can be a positive political force 16.Oct.2004 01:39


I'm afraid I agree with Vomitron. Churches have often been one of the most progressive factors in politics throughout Christian history (and occasionally before it, too). Consider Gandhi's revolution -- that was not a secular movement; it was a profoundly spiritual, Hindu movement. What we're really seeing here now, is that some of the most powerful churches in America are also some of the most corrupt, least spiritual, and least progressive. That's sad, that's bad, but it's not necessarily illegal. It's immoral, and it's a contradiction with the historical, fundamental thrust of Christianity, so it will eventually right itself ... which doesn't mean that good people won't have to work their butts off to MAKE it right itself. Religious people need to fight to make sure that THEIR churches, always exemplify what is best and most spiritual in their religion.

no hate preaching please 16.Oct.2004 09:46

church? state?

I don't think it needs to be all or nothing with religious groups taking positions. What are the laws regarding hate speech? How did those Nazi churches get taken down? I'm asking because I've run into two wingnuts who think all our problems will be solved when we bomb the entire Mideast and I'm betting they were coached on this. I'd like to investigate which of our local bastions of purity and goodness are preaching genocide.

Um, READ IT PEOPLE 16.Oct.2004 11:27


Dude, measure 36 is not a progressive force for social change, is not a good thing and has no comparison to Ghandi! For that matter, the southern baptists in the USA are NOT the "good guys" when it comes to fighting racism, sexism and other social ills. They are the team on the OTHER side of these issues.

Yeah, SOME churches are progressive, that does not defend ALL churches when they do things wrong.

Is it "legal" for churches to display campaign signs? YES! 19.Oct.2004 06:36


I believe that churches are free to discriminate against anyone or anything they want. The other side of the coin is that they can accept anyone or anything they want. Think back a few years, to the Christian sect in Oregon City that doesn't believe in medical care, even when their children are ill? The court upheld their right to not seek medical attention based on their religious beliefs. If a Catholic, just for argument's sake, allowed their children to die because they didn't seek medical help, they would be arrested for homicide, at the least manslaughter!

Churches may have tax exempt status, but that is due to being a non-profit organization. They are not held to the same standards as other tax exempt entities, however, such as public schools, etc. where you can't put up campaign or political signs.

Separation of church and state...the government can not penalize churches in any way for acts that would be against the law in any other public venue, e.g. racism, sexism, ageism, etc. (However, it does appear that politicians MAY base their political decisions and opinions on their theological and moral beliefs. Some are walking a very fine line, to be sure.)

Re: churches, is this "representation without taxation?" Perhaps the idea of revoking their tax exempt status needs to be looked at in more detail for a future election?


lawn signs on inititives and referendums are legal 19.Oct.2004 15:42

Clarify the Right

The law states that churches may post their views in regard to political referendums and inititives; although endorsements of politians is not acceptable. Are we limiting the right of those who we may not agree with to express their views? The constitution and subsequent legistration and judicial rulings have up held it this right.
If you don't agree on an issue, voice your opinion, get involved in legitmate ways and vote. My brother has had 2 lawn signs burn in his yard; it would seem that the hate is changed from burning crosses in the yards to burning lawn signs and vandalizing and indimidating those who hold a more traditional view. I know many who are afraid to place bumper stickers on their cars signs in their yards because of fear of those who have been inflamed with a rebellion and would take inappropriate actions and vandalize their car and their properties. Their civil liberties are being stepped on.
Don't be so open minded that your brains fall out. Please look at the issues and act responsively.

measure 36 is unconsitutional 19.Oct.2004 15:57

strict constitutionalist

It violates both the US Constitution and the Oregon Constitution. Those who believe in these documents will uphold our constitutions and protect them from those who would tarnish our ideals of equal liberty.

Those who support discrimination will have to answer to God for their sin of pride, to their children for perpetuating anger, fear, and inequality, and to their fellow citizens for their disrespect for the constitutions of this state and country.

Though, we saw this same thing during the civil rights movement, during the abolition movement, during the women's suffrage movement. Every time, we see that the rights for all people prevail. That is the beacon of hope for our country.

act responsibly and responsively 19.Oct.2004 16:10

Clarify the Right

I just read the comment that I previously posted and realized I mention in closing to act "responsively" which I would also invite, but I meant act responsibly. Dialogue is good and reasonable and should be encouraged. Our responsibility is to be civil. I encourage your input.

reminds me of a quote 19.Oct.2004 16:20

Thomas Jefferson

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

America United web page 19.Oct.2004 16:47

Read It

At the bottom of the web page America United:Church Electioneering, where it gives an IRS clarification, the last sentence clearly states "candidate for public office" not a voting initive. There is a differance that has been addressed and established. A carefull search on the web will confirm this differance. It strange they would leave it to the last at the very bottom of the page.