How then should I vote – Can a Church or Pastor endorse a candidate?

Today is the day of the Presidential Primary Election. It is a day that we have the privilege of voting.

Let me begin by saying that, as Christians, we should vote.

In Deuteronomy 16:18-20, God says, “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

God tells the people of Israel to appoint judges and officers. In essence, judges and officers were government leaders. They adjudicated disputes. They set public policies. They oversaw the use of the military.

Yesteryear’s appointment could be considered the biblical equivalent of voting. God wanted His people to be governed and He gave the people the responsibility of appointing their leaders.

Hence, it stands to reason that the Lord would want us to maintain the responsibility of appointing our governmental leaders. In Jesus’s day, the people of Israel no longer had the privilege of appointing their leadership since they were under the rule of the Roman Empire and had no say. It was considered a dark time.

So then, how should we vote?

In ensuing blogs, I will attempt to give some guidelines for voting as a follower of Christ. The guidelines are not comprehensive and would not be universally embraced by fellow believers. But they will be food for thought.

In our country, can a pastor or church endorse a particular candidate based on our tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service?

According to The Baptist Standard, the IRS’ Tax Guide for Churches & Religious Organizations outlines the requirements for church tax exemption. “To qualify for tax-exempt status,” it states, “the organization must meet the following requirements:

“The organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific or other charitable purposes;

  1.  “Net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder;
  2. “No substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation;
  3. “The organization may not intervene in political campaigns; and
  4. “The organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.”
  5. Clearly, a church cannot endorse a particular candidate and maintain its tax exempt status. It is not as clear when it comes to a pastor of a church.

Again, according to the Baptist Standard, the IRS states: “The political campaign activity prohibition isn’t intended to restrict free expression on political matters by leaders of churches or religious organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals. …

No one, not even the IRS, can stem our First Amendment rights.

The IRS goes on to say, “However, for their organizations to remain tax exempt under IRC Section 501(c) (3), religious leaders can’t make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official church functions. To avoid potential attribution of their comments outside of church functions and publications, religious leaders who speak or write in their individual capacity are encouraged to clearly indicate that their comments are personal and not intended to represent the views of the organization.”

So, in reality, a pastor can endorse a candidate as long as they do so as a private citizen of the United States of America and not as an official representative of a church.

Having shared all of this, I have always chosen not to endorse a candidate, but rather share principles on how to make voting choices.

How then should you vote?  More to come in time for the November elections. As for today, what criteria are you using to vote?

Something to think about…