Even though I have been a pastor for 35 years and a lobbyist for 13 years, I am still challenged with what the proper role of the church is in government. I am thankful for organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their willingness to help churches define their proper role in things like elections.
ADF is the world’s largest religious liberty law firm and a very effective and influential organization. They have worked with almost 3,400 allied attorneys, and partners with over 1,000 allied organizations. There is no doubt that the Lord has granted them a very successful record. ADF has won nearly 80 percent of all their cases and played a role in 56 U.S. Supreme Court victories.
ADF exists to keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, freedom of speech, and marriage and family. Their purpose statement is something that all churches can agree with. ADF developed a membership program called the ADF Church Alliance that provides proactive legal help for churches in order to help hem navigate the changing law and culture so that they can be prepared and steward their ministries well in our time. This membership includes document review, access to timely resources and attorney consultation, and if needed, free litigation. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board is an ADF Church Alliance member and we highly encourage you to join as well using the promo code GBMB20 for 20 percent off the already heavily discounted membership.
That being said, I want to highlight one of the timely resources ADF has put together to help churches navigate the election year entitled “Five Things to Know: A Legal Guide for Churches.” It is an easy read that does an excellent job of balancing the rights and the responsibility of the church in government. This information speaks to what are the five most important areas of concern.
- Sermons and Speech. Their guide helps in identifying what pastors and churches should be aware of before speaking out on political issues of our day. It answers the questions related to whether church leaders can speak about political issues, candidates and legislation.
- General Education of Voters. Help is given in defining what churches can legally do when it comes to educating their congregation on voter participation. It shows what churches can do in participating in voter registration, voter identification and “get-out-the-vote” activities.
- Use of Church Facilities. Guidance is given regarding churches being used for “political” purposes. Answers are given regarding whether churches can be used for a polling place, distribution of literature and candidates speaking activities.
- Lobbying. Limits are advised on how much a church can be involved in lobbying efforts. Guidance is given on how much churches can officially speak out on political issues and lobby on proposed legislation.
- Gifts and Money. Legal direction is given about churches raising and spending money on “political” causes. Limits are given regarding financial participation in organizations, ballot measures and candidate campaigns.
As you can see, understanding these five subjects will help give you more insight into how churches can and cannot engage. This is why the Georgia Baptist Mission Board has partnered with ADF Church Alliance to help enable the production of this guide. As result of our partnership, we are making this guide available to you as a free download here.
Please take advantage of this tremendous offer to educate your church on how to be legally involved. This guide will help you navigate the laws surrounding tax exempt status for churches. It will equip you to identify what pastors and churches should be aware of before speaking out and getting involved in the political arena.
This is no time for the church to be silent. It is also not a time for our churches to be unwise. The goal of this guide is to empower churches to Shepherd God’s people on being involved and protecting their ministry at the same time.
I’m thankful that we live in a day when we have church leaders who are passionate about sharing the gospel and being salt and light in the nation that God has called us to live in. Please feel free to call upon me if I can be of any help to you and your church.
Also, do not hesitate to contact ADFChurchAlliance.org/GBMB with any questions or how to become a member of the Church Alliance protection program.
Mike Griffin serves as Public Affairs representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.