Contrary to popular opinion, voter registration and issues-related sermons are both legitimate actions in houses of worship. That's explained in a short booklet from a Christian legal firm that helps churches understand what they can and can't do during the election season.
According to pollster George Barna, some 39 million conservative Christians didn't vote in the 2012 presidential election. Their participation might have changed the outcome, considering President Barack Obama won by only five million votes.
While most churchgoers think it's inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate during a church service, that doesn't mean sanctuaries must remain a "politics-free zone." Pacific Justice Institute, based in Sacramento, California, is putting out a free booklet that details what a church can and cannot do of a political nature during this election – and according to PJI president Brad Dacus, it starts with connecting with those voters.
"Churches can register voters. This is the most important thing that churches can do and should do," he tells OneNewsNow.
"They can have a table in front of their church; or for that matter, they can hand out voter registrations to everyone in the congregation who doesn't have one and have the ushers come and pick them up after they're filled out."
The booklet – "The Church and Politics: What Ministers and Churches Can Do to Affect Public Policy with Christian Principles" – also explains that churches can host candidate forums and have candidates speak at their services, provided every candidate for the same office is invited.
In addition, the attorney explains there's really no limits on what a pastor can say about biblical issues that may be affected by an election. "Pastors can preach and talk about all kinds of issues and the positions that they believe Christians should take on these issues, and encourage them to vote accordingly," he adds.
Dacus points out that hundreds of pastors across the U.S. have gone beyond what the booklet and the law allows by endorsing candidates from the pulpit, effectively putting the IRS on notice – but so far, the IRS has done nothing.
While PJI's booklet won't necessarily instruct churches in that regard, Dacus says his firm will back those that choose to do so.
"If any church, any pastor is ever sued or action brought against them by the Internal Revenue Service for doing so, then we at the Pacific Justice Institute will represent them, without charge, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary."
In short, Dacus says in an open letter to pastors and churches, the booklet assists people of faith in understanding "the tools legally available to them to further the moral principles created by God" as they prepare to vote in November.