Catholic parishes face limits on political action

  • September 12, 2008

Enquiring minds want to know what Catholic parishes can and cannot do in this federal election. Fortunately, before every election most bishops across Canada send detailed instructions to their pastors on this subject.

After all, no one wants to jeopardize the charitable tax status of the Catholic Church. And that means maintaining a line between speaking out on issues dear to Catholics while staying out of the partisan bear pit.

These restrictions do not limit church staff, volunteers or members from political activity outside of the church on their own time, or with their own money. But what goes on inside the church is a matter that Revenue Canada scrutinizes closely.

Here are the basic guidelines for Catholic parish political involvement.

What churches can do:

1. Churches can organize all-candidates meetings as long as all candidates are invited; they can also invite all candidates to speak at the same event or service.

2. Churches can definitely encourage parishioners to get to know the candidates and educate themselves on the issues.

3. Provide information on issues about which the church has particular concerns and teachings. One caveat: the church cannot link its position with one candidate or party.

4. Encourage all parishioners to get involved and vote.

5. Highlight how all members of Parliament vote on a particular issue.

What churches cannot do:

1. Invite candidates to speak at different times or events.

2. Promote or oppose one candidate by posting signs, endorsing a candidate from the pulpit or distributing campaign literature for one candidate.

3. Highlight how one particular member of Parliament voted on an issue.

3. Link church views with one candidate or party.

4. Encourage parishioners to vote for one candidate or party.

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