To the editor: It was brought to our attention that several churches and Democratic political groups in Kent County are sponsoring a “rally to celebrate the right to vote,” and, consequently promote Democratic candidates.
As our Democratic friends in Kent County are probably aware, under the IRS code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations including churches may not “participate in, or intervene in (including publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for political office.” 26 U.S.C. Section 501(c)(3). This prohibition applies to any and all candidates for federal, state and even local elections. (See IRS Regulations, Section 1.501(c)(3)-1(3) (iii))
The language inserted in 501(c)(3) is known as the Johnson Amendment passed in 1954, with the explicit purpose of prohibiting houses of worship of endorsing political candidates.
However, under the same federal tax law, churches may engage in nonpartisan campaign activities, as voter education, or non-partisan voter registration drives, ed- ucate church members on legislative and political matters, or introduce political candidates as long as all candidates seeking the same office are given an equal opportunity to participate, and the church does not endorse any particular candidate.
It is ironic, to say the least, that the same people who feel threatened by the repealing of the Johnson Amendment, claiming that the amendment has been instrumental in establishing nonprofit charitable sector as one of the only platforms of nonpartisan civic engagement, would organize and sponsor an event in a Chestertown church specifically designed to promote the Democratic platform and endorse a Democratic congressional candidate who is running against Republican Congressman Andy Harris.
We hope that our Democratic friends would provide us with a most needed explanation. Tatiana Croissette Kent County Republican Central Committee