Community Discussion: Church and Politics
As church communicators, we often have to make difficult decisions. Thankfully, we can find wise counsel through others as they share their experiences. Jeff Taylor petitioned our Facebook group to help him find a solution to a particularly difficult situation:
“Hey everybody! Got a question for you. Say you have a member of your congregation who’s a candidate for a statewide office. They created a commercial and would like it shared/reposted. Do you oblige, or is that crossing lines and/or opening a can of big ol’ fat earthworms? (We’re in total support of the member’s candidacy by the way). For further clarification everyone, they asked “me” to share/repost. The implication wasn’t to do this with the church page. In my post I was just putting the broader idea out there to see what people’s thoughts were. And man are you guys and gals delivering!“
His post has conjured up insightful responses from our co-communicators. Here are some of their answers:
“We don’t do it as we are a 501c3 and posting candidate videos, placing flyers, etc. is in violation of our status. We do allow them to greet the congregation (bring them up to the platform). Note that we have several members who are elected officials (from Congress to local gov’t).” – Charlotte Williams, Allen Temple Baptist Church
“Yeah, I would say that’s crossing a line. On a professional level like Charlotte mentioned above, but on a personal level, I don’t want to hear about politics in church. At all. I remember living in California during the Proposition 8/Same Sex Marriage debacle back in 2009/2010 and an associate pastor urging people to vote against it from the stage. That really did not sit well with me.” – Natalie Gott
“Don’t do it!!! There are very few win-win scenarios here. We went through this issue in a church that I was at a few years ago, and it immediately went south in several areas of our ministry. Politics are not part of the mission of the church, so stay away from promoting any candidates or parties.” – Chad Murrell, First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale
“As an individual, you can. As a church, I wouldn’t.” – Allie Scott, Peace UMC WI
“As said above, you cannot endorse a candidate or a political party as a 501c3. However, you are allowed (by law) to speak out for or against the legislation. Also, your pastor is allowed to endorse individual candidates for office and can use his/her title in the endorsement. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t — just stating what is legal to do. Sen. Ted Cruz is a member of our church, so we have been through all this with a fine-toothed comb over the years, and for some other elected officials at our church, too.” – Steven W. Murray, Houston’s First Baptist Church
“Nope, the church is impartial. If church members want to (endorse) from their personal pages then great. But nothing on the official church pages.” – Wesley Farnsworth
“You absolutely can’t. What if someone else from your church were running against? We don’t promote anyone’s personal stuff, whether political, personal (selling stuff), or business. Just a general policy.” – Amy Warren
“Agreed with everyone else for the same reasons. On a more positive note/angle, our communications through any & every church platform (digital, print, and spoken) are only used to relay promotions/stories directly related to the church’s mission & ministries. Anything that falls outside of that is a “no.” Seeing that the request was personal, that’s your call, but I would be very clear in separating your personal decision on the matter from any measure of openness on the part of the church.” – Benton Cole, McCord Road Christian Church
“As a candidate, I let congregational members ask me about it, and I ended all conversations with please consider telling your friends.” – Miranda Gray
“I would ask three things:
1. Depends on your position at church
2. What is the potential impact on/to the congregation?
3. Does this compromise the message of the gospel or mission of the church in any way?”
– Sarah Black Payne, Bethlehem & Jollivue UMC
The responses to Jeff’s question are mostly unanimous. Everyone seems to be in agreement that personal favors involving politics cross the line. Politics and church should not occupy the same platform. Not only does it make people uncomfortable, but it is also a code violation for a church that is registered as a 501C3 non-profit organization.
All church communicators are responsible for what is being represented on their social media accounts. This member of Jeff’s church asked for a seemingly small favor, but it is important to determine what the appropriate role of the church is in such a scenario.