Under the law that governs tax-exempt organizations, churches are allowed to support causes or ballot initiatives such as laws to ban same-sex marriage. They also can hold a candidates' night for all office-seekers in a race. But according to guidance provided on the IRS's Web site, churches are "absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office."Of course, it's always seemed that black churches got away with a lot of this stuff, and that Democratic politicians would regularly campaign there.
The prohibition is aimed at preventing government subsidies — in the form of tax breaks — from going to organizations that support political parties. Other types of nonprofits are permitted to engage in partisan political activity but have more limited tax protections. For instance, their financial supporters aren't allowed to claim tax deductions for their donations.
With 6,000 members, Trinity is the largest United Church of Christ congregation. The church is centered in a poor Chicago neighborhood, near public housing and down the road from Cut Rate Food & Liquors, which posts a sign reading "No drug dealing." A review by The Wall Street Journal of 13 sermons at Trinity seen live or through church-recorded DVDs since late December found nine instances of ministers at Trinity appearing to promote Sen. Obama's candidacy.
From the Pulpit
Some of the sermons mentioned Sen. Clinton or her husband in unflattering ways. During that Christmas morning sermon, Mr. Wright declared that Hillary Clinton "ain't had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything or to get a passing grade when you know you are smarter than that 'C' student sitting in the White House." [Obama Pastors' Sermons May Violate Tax Laws - WSJ.com]