|"Soup kitchens as political activism: What's appropriate for whom?"
June 20, 2008
Mark Chopko quoted in this article addressing the political responsibilities religious figures have.
Mark Chopko, former general counsel to the USCCB and now in private law practice at Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, spells out another whole set of considerations governing political involvement by church leaders -- the implications for their status as tax-exempt charities.
Maintaining an organization's tax-exempt status requires that it not participate in a wide range of political activities, such as intervening in individuals' campaigns. Harder to define legally, however, is when the political actions of an individual can be attributed to the institution with which he or she is identified.
Chopko said the Internal Revenue Service is always on the lookout for such cases.
In an article in the spring 2008 edition of Church magazine, published by the National Pastoral Life Center, Chopko distinguishes between the "moral voices of pastors and people calling the body politic to consider the intrinsic values molded by religious principles," and the numerous voices urging church leaders to become directly involved in electoral politics.
"The church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human person, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and vulnerable," he wrote.