Whenever The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes a stand on a moral issue the n’er do wells crawl out of the woodwork. The cry rises, “The Church should lose its tax exempt status!” This time around it is Proposition 8 and though I haven’t heard any cries of protest here in Utah, I have read the usual, “Take away their tax-exempt status” in various blog comments.
So it was with interest I read on the Protect Marriage website Joint Statement To California Religious Leaders Regarding Proposition 8. This is a summary of the article.
A Right to Speak
Religious leaders have the right to educate members of their congregation about Proposition 8. Under the federal tax code, religious leaders may speak freely and forcefully on important issues of public policy, including Proposition 8. Pastors and other religious leaders have the right to discuss legislative issues, support or oppose legislation, encourage their members to support or oppose legislation, and offer facts and materials about important legislation as long as the information is educational and is not designed to support a particular political party or candidate. Tax exempt religious organizations may lawfully spend an “insubstantial” amount of their funds (less than 10%) yearly on issue lobbying for Proposition 8.
Religious organizations have the right to conduct non-partisan voter registration drives. Such registration drives may also include a church setting up a voter registration table or petition signature gathering table in their lobby or mailing registration cards to their members.
Religious organizations cannot currently be forced to perform same-sex marriages. The California Supreme Court stated very clearly in its recent ruling that its opinion does not mean that same-sex couples can demand to be wed in churches across California.
In addition to state rights, churches and religious organizations have substantial protections under the federal constitution and federal law. Even the leading proponents for same-sex marriage agree with this principle.
As well as the Joint Statement there is another document on Protect Marriage called Churches and Politics by the Alliance Defense Fund that goes into much greater detail.