Over the years there has been a growing alliance between partisan political efforts and churches that both crosses the line between the separation of church and state and adversely impacts the ability of congregations to faithfully live out the Gospel message independent of political forces.
There are guidelines that all religious groups should abide by. For example, it is clearly illegal for churches and other non-profits to endorse one candidate over another. Churches, however, may endorse public causes (such as the effort to end the war in Iraq) or ballot initiatives. Clergy, like all Americans, are free as individuals (but not as representatives of their congregations) to endorse political candidates.
Churches may also hold voter registration drives, distribute non-partisan voter guides, and hold candidate forums.
Groups like Focus on the Family and other organizations that are part of the Religious Right routinely blur the lines with their efforts on behalf of Republican candidates. But, as Jim Wallis likes to say, God is Not a Republican... Or a Democrat.
The United Church of Christ - as part of the Our Faith, Our Vote Campaign - has published a 2-page report called "Guidelines for Congregations and Clergy on Political Action" that is available for download.
A more substantial report from the Interfaith Alliance - A Campaign Season Guide for Houses of Worship - is also available online.
Get more information on this issue from the Interfaith Alliance and The Rev. Welton Gaddy by clicking here.