The Register still has it wrong. (“Churches cross line with political endorsements”, 4/9/2015 – see link below.) Churches with ministers who advocate for specific candidates should be allowed to be tax exempt. But donors who contribute to them should not get a charitable tax deduction.
There are two types of tax-exempt organizations. First, there are the Charitable, Religious and Educational organizations, (tax code 501c3 organizations), that pay no income taxes, (and often don’t pay other taxes), plus donors get a charitable tax deduction on their income taxes for the amount of their contribution. Second, there are all other tax-exempt organizations that pay no income taxes, (and often don’t pay other taxes), but donors do NOT get a charitable deduction. They are properly classified as tax exempt, since they are organized to not make any kind of profit, but their activities are not charitable, so no charitable tax deduction is given.
There are many tax exempt organizations that do not make any profit, but that are not charitable and whose donors don’t get a tax deduction. They include Rotary clubs, political parties, country clubs, political issue organizations, chambers of commerce, special interest clubs, etc. None of them try to make any profit, but they are not charitable.
To the extent that any not-for-profit organization advocates for or against specific candidates, that organization is not doing charitable work. It is doing political work. Under the principle of equal treatment under the law, donors to churches that advocate for specific candidates should not get a charitable tax deduction. If a church wants its donors to receive a charitable tax deduction for contributions made, then the minister should not advocate for candidates from the pulpit, or through any other communication from the church.
Link to Register editorial: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/caucus/2015/04/08/rgisters-editorial-churches-cross-line-political-endorsements/25500433/