Catholic Conference of Illinois
Guidelines on Political Activities for Parishes and Catholic Church OrganizationsmFormed in 1969 by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Illinois, the Catholic Conference of Illinois
(CCI) is the agent through which the dioceses of Illinois (Belleville, Chicago, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield) may act mutually and cooperatively in matters of interdiocesan and state-wide interest. CCI is a multi-issue public policy arm of the Church in Illinois.
Role of the Church in Politics. The Catholic Church, its parishes, and Church
organizations are prohibited by federal law from participating in partisan political activities.
The tax-exempt status of a parish or Church organization may be revoked if there is a violation of the law, and other penalties and taxes may also be imposed on any funds spent on prohibited political activities. However, the Church does have a role in politics and public policy formation through activities such as:
A. Educating Catholics and others on the teachings of the Church as they relate to social
B. Analyzing and measuring policies against the values of the Gospel.
C. Speaking out on issues, such as those involving the life and dignity of the human person, social justice, the promotion of the common good, and the life of the Church in society.
D. Encouraging voters to participate fully in the political process.
The following is a guide to some of the political activities in which parishes and Church organizations can and cannot be engaged, in compliance with applicable federal law. Please note that this is only a general guide to political activities and is not to be construed as legal advice. Particular concerns or questions should be addressed with the Catholic Conference of Illinois.
Clearly Prohibited Activities
Among the activities that parishes and Church organizations are clearly prohibited from participating in include: v Endorsing a candidate or political party. Donating money or other resources to a candidate or political party. Exclusively offering the parish’s or Church organization’s facilities to a candidate or political party.
Voter Registration Drives
Nonpartisan voter registration and “Get out the vote” drives are permissible. The event should not demonstrate a preference or bias toward a particular candidate, political party, or voting position. No election campaign materials or other materials produced by candidates or political parties are to be distributed, and the event should not be conducted in cooperation with any political campaign or party. The event should be open to everyone and not targeted to individuals known to support a particular candidate.
Voter Education Materials
- Only those voter education materials that come from or are approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CCI, or the local diocese may be published by or distributed in parishes, schools, or other entities of the province.
- For more detailed guidelines, go to http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/politicalactivity-guidelines.cfm.
Issue Advocacy Campaigns
- Issue advocacy campaigns can be conducted, including educational efforts about issues and
legislation and the encouragement of letter-writing campaigns and other contacts with
government officials, as long as the campaign is conducted in a nonpartisan manner.
- The position taken on an issue must be consistent with the Church’s position and Catholic
Social Teaching. v When issue advocacy campaigns coincide with election campaigns, an
individual candidate’s position on the issue should not be identified nor compared with the
Church’s position on that issue.
- Parishes and Church organizations should avoid any participation in or authorization of
the distribution of campaign literature or biased voter education materials on their property.
However, a parish or Church organization is not obligated to actively monitor and prevent
campaign leafleting of cars in its parking lot.
- Political signs should not be placed on property owned or rented for official business by a
Parish or Church organization.
Distribution of Campaign Materials on the Property of a Parish or Church Organization
- Parishes and Church organizations should avoid any participation in or authorization of the distribution of campaign literature or biased voter education materials on their property. However, a parish or Church organization is not obligated to actively monitor and prevent campaign leafleting of cars in its parking lot.
- Political signs should not be placed on property owned or rented for official business by a parish or Church organization.
CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING Catholic Social Teaching should be the framework from which issues in the political arena are addressed. Catholic Social Teaching includes the following major themes:
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Protection of and Participation in the Family and the Community
- Rights of the Human Person Protected and Each Person’s Responsibilities Met
- Care for the Poor and Vulnerable
- Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
- Solidarity as One Human Family
- Care for God’s Creation