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Shaarei Shamayim Public Policy Advocacy Guidelines

By Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, President

Recently, an increasing number of members have urged Shaarei Shamayim to take various public policy positions and actions. Many of our members take part in our congregation's social justice activities. While the Coordinating Committee is pleased to see this increase in our congregation's social action profile, we also need to be mindful of the limitations imposed upon us by our 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt status. Therefore, we have developed these public policy guidelines to ensure that we are able to continue to engage in important social action activities while preserving our non-profit tax-exempt status.

The following activities are strictly prohibited, and Shaarei Shamayim will not engage in them. This does not prohibit our members from taking these actions on their own. However, as a tax-exempt non-profit, we may not:

  • Endorse political candidates (it is permissible for Shaarei Shamayim to host candidate forums without endorsing any candidate);
  • Encourage voting for particular candidates (it is permissible for Shaarei Shamayim to encourage our members to vote);
  • Contribute funds to political candidates or parties.

Regarding public policy issues, IRS regulations allow our congregation to engage in issue-based advocacy as long as that advocacy does not become a major portion of our overall activity. Typically, if the IRS chose to investigate our congregation’s public policy activity, it would examine the amount of our budget we spend on issue-based advocacy, as well as the amount of time our paid staff spends on issue-based advocacy, as a percentage of our budget and overall staff time. At this point, although we have recently increased our issue-based advocacy, it is still a minor portion of our overall activity and budget, and therefore we are not concerned that we are endangering our non-profit tax-exempt status through that activity.

If you have any questions or concerns about our social action activities, please feel free to be in touch.

Sat, November 16 2019 18 Cheshvan 5780