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How Florida politics can jeopardize the tax-exempt status of churches and nonprofits



Our many faiths have played roles in campaigns since our nation was founded. Politics can jeopardize the tax-exempt status churches and nonprofits enjoy.“I am running for governor to defeat Ron DeSantis and help you!” Democratic Party candidate for governor Charlie Crist said.Crist had a welcoming audience at the Florida General Baptist Convention conference in Orlando. “God is good, all the time, and (so is) making sure people know what’s at stake in this election … that democracy is on the ballot … A woman’s right to choose is on the ballot …Public education is on the ballot,” Crist said.Crist’s primary opponent, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, was not invited. Her campaign emailed WESH 2 News a statement saying, “Nikki understands that engaging with our religious communities is integral for a win in November, and attends every religious event she’s invited to, schedule permitting.”But it was clear from the crowd reaction, Crist is the preferred candidate. “I believe that Charlie Crist is that change for Florida,” said the Rev. Jerry Alexander, a pastor with Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church Ocala. Churches and other religiously-affiliated organizations have to be careful when inviting candidates to speak. 501(c)(3) organizations risk losing the tax-exempt status if they show favoritism for one candidate over another. The Internal Revenue Service rules have been in place since 1954, and as of this month prohibit 1.8-million 501(c)(3) nonprofits across the nation, and more than 103,000 in Florida from engaging in politics.But the reality is churches have been welcoming politicians since our country was born. We recently joined democratic district 10 congressional candidate Corrine Brown when she spoke at St. John Baptist Church in Orlando and directed the congregation to her campaign website.“We need someone who is going to fight for you and that is my commitment,” Brown said.Certainly, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has used churches like this one in Kissimmee to sign the 15-week abortion ban in April and religion-based private schools to communicate his agenda. The federal government investigates alleged political activity by nonprofits when people complain using this online form, a form that may be used a lot in this election year. WESH 2 News has requested the number of complaints filed in Florida and nationally this year against churches and other nonprofits for allegedly engaging in politics. We’ll bring you that information when we get it.

Our many faiths have played roles in campaigns since our nation was founded.

Politics can jeopardize the tax-exempt status churches and nonprofits enjoy.

“I am running for governor to defeat Ron DeSantis and help you!” Democratic Party candidate for governor Charlie Crist said.

Crist had a welcoming audience at the Florida General Baptist Convention conference in Orlando.

“God is good, all the time, and (so is) making sure people know what’s at stake in this election … that democracy is on the ballot … A woman’s right to choose is on the ballot …Public education is on the ballot,” Crist said.

Crist’s primary opponent, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, was not invited. Her campaign emailed WESH 2 News a statement saying, “Nikki understands that engaging with our religious communities is integral for a win in November, and attends every religious event she’s invited to, schedule permitting.”

But it was clear from the crowd reaction, Crist is the preferred candidate.

“I believe that Charlie Crist is that change for Florida,” said the Rev. Jerry Alexander, a pastor with Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church Ocala.

Churches and other religiously-affiliated organizations have to be careful when inviting candidates to speak. 501(c)(3) organizations risk losing the tax-exempt status if they show favoritism for one candidate over another.

The Internal Revenue Service rules have been in place since 1954, and as of this month prohibit 1.8-million 501(c)(3) nonprofits across the nation, and more than 103,000 in Florida from engaging in politics.

But the reality is churches have been welcoming politicians since our country was born. We recently joined democratic district 10 congressional candidate Corrine Brown when she spoke at St. John Baptist Church in Orlando and directed the congregation to her campaign website.

“We need someone who is going to fight for you and that is my commitment,” Brown said.

Certainly, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has used churches like this one in Kissimmee to sign the 15-week abortion ban in April and religion-based private schools to communicate his agenda.

The federal government investigates alleged political activity by nonprofits when people complain using this online form, a form that may be used a lot in this election year.

WESH 2 News has requested the number of complaints filed in Florida and nationally this year against churches and other nonprofits for allegedly engaging in politics.

We’ll bring you that information when we get it.



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