Guides offer practical advice for houses of worship, candidates and voters seeking to navigate the legal and ethical boundaries between religion and politics
WASHINGTON – During a campaign season in which houses of worship are facing increased scrutiny from the IRS over political entanglements, Interfaith Alliance has released a set of election year guides for houses of worship and candidates. The guide for congregations offers legal and ethical counsel on how religious leaders, houses of worship and religious institutions may appropriately participate in the electoral process without violating the law or compromising their moral standing. The guide for candidates describes proper and improper ways to speak about one’s own religious background and to speak to religious voters in a campaign. Interfaith Alliance also created a pamphlet with five questions on faith and politics that voters can ask candidates for public office.
“Each election cycle seems to see an ever increasing amount of religion forced into the political process by candidates anxious to wrap themselves in the mantle of faith,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. “Unfortunately the cynical use of religion as a political tactic is made easier by houses of worship that are all too ready to gain favor with the political elite at the expense of their own moral standing. Interfaith Alliance has long been committed to providing resources to houses of worship and candidates in an effort to educate them on the appropriate legal and ethical boundaries.”
Interfaith Alliance’s guides, “A Campaign Season Guide for Houses of Worship” and “Running for Office in a Multi-Faith Nation,” serve as valuable resources that will help religious leaders, candidates and voters navigate the complex relationship between politics and religion. The guides offer practical advice for candidates speaking in houses of worship and talking about faith on the campaign trail, as well as explanations of encouraged and prohibited election season activities for congregations.
“During a hard-fought campaign, it is important that political candidates not use religion to divide Americans or to marginalize an opponent whose faith may differ from their own,” said Rev. Gaddy. “Faith leaders should encourage civic participation without crossing the line by making inappropriate partisan endorsements. These guides will help religious communities and political candidates engage in our great exercise of democracy with strengthened respect for religious diversity and religious freedom.”
The guides are available online at interfaithalliance.org/elections and from Interfaith Alliance’s state-based affiliates.
As part of its effort, Interfaith Alliance has also developed a resource for voters seeking to better understand the perspectives of candidates. Its “Five Questions for Candidates on the Role of Religion in American Public Life” provides voters with questions to ask candidates who are running for office this fall. The recommended questions are:
- What role will your faith or values play in creating public policy or making appointments?
- What are your views on the boundaries between religion and government?
- What steps will you take to protect the rights of your constituents regardless of their faith or beliefs?
- How will you speak about your beliefs without making them just another political tool?
- How will you balance the principles of your faith and your obligation to defend the Constitution, particularly if the two come into conflict?
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.