“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
A recent article in UU World made a rather astonishing claim. For congregations to engage in social issues, such as by lobbying for laws that would promote equality and justice and against laws that would permit discrimination and prejudice, they need to be able to demonstrate a consistent history of such advocacy in order to comply with IRS guidelines on political activities by churches. In other words, the article explains, “some congregations might actually need to do more lobbying and issue advocacy in between elections”, rather than just getting active at election time when the stakes seem highest.
Since there’s quite an amount of confusion over what religious communities can and cannot do when it comes to political engagement, the Unitarian Universalist Association maintains a handbook, The Real Rules, that “is intended to clarify Internal Revenue Service guidelines as they relate to religious organizations in the hope that more congregations will (1) choose to become involved in working for justice; and (2) know when it is important to seek legal advice.” If you are not familiar with this document, it is well worth reading, particularly if you have any concerns about what our (or any other) congregation is permitted to do. There’s even a helpful summary in terms of the limits imposed by IRS regulations on three types of activities, which I’ll further summarize as follows:
Of course, when it comes to what we are permitted to do, we can ask the question that just because something is allowed, does that mean we should do it? Well, think about it this way:
Should we get involved in political issues? How can we not and still call ourselves Unitarian Universalists?