As most of you no doubt know, 2020 is an election year. Some are saying it is one of the most important elections in recent memory. And many of us are overflowing with emotional energy around it — hope, fear, anxiety, passion, dread, and probably every other feeling imaginable.
Unitarian Universalists are known — as we are here at KVUUC — as people who participate in democracy, sometimes quietly, other times loudly and in the streets. That’s a beautiful thing about our religious movement — we feel it is important to live our faith in the real world.
It is also true that at heart we are a religious, and not political, organization. We are even liberal religiously, which is not the same thing as saying we are all political liberals — or even if we are all political liberals, there are still particular issues and situations about which we can disagree. Our covenant is when we disagree, to do so with love and respect.
It is also true that KVUUC is a tax-exempt religious organization, and with that exemption comes some restrictions on the extent to which we, as a body, can participated in political advocacy. In reality these restrictions are very narrow. We are allowed to take public stands on issues, pro and con, that are important to us, but the one important thing we are not allowed to do is to utilize our congregation’s resources to advocate for or against any declared candidate for any public office. The onus is on all of us to be aware of this, for it includes things like Announcements and Sharing of Joys and Sorrows in our Sunday service. It’s fine to use these avenues to advocate for issues and causes that are important to us, but they should not be used to communicate information about specific candidates or campaigns.
I think these IRS restrictions are a healthy thing for a congregation like ours, for it helps remind us of what I said above — that even though we all attend the same church and share a lot of the same values, there is not unanimous agreement among us. When we speak up for our favorite candidate in a service we may wind up inadvertently causing discomfort for some.
There is a lot more information about what UU congregations can and should do to participate in our democracy, and how the rules limit us, on https://www.uua.org/justice/vote2020.