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The archdiocese will not participate in the NRLC distribution of “voter guides”

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June 7, 2012

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will not participate in an effort by the National Right to Life Committee, Inc. to distribute “voter guide” cards in Catholic churches on June 25 or July 1.


As described by NRLC, the cards would provide the positions of President Obama and Mitt Romney on issues relating to abortion and religious liberty.


In a communication to the pastors of Catholic parishes of the archdiocese this week, Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr wrote: “Although these cards are described as ‘educational materials,’ they will highlight the positions of two Presidential candidates on a narrow range of issues in a manner and under circumstances that may well result in bias in favor of one candidate during the presidential campaign period.  Further, NRLC has indicated that its distribution would be targeted to certain states including Ohio.”


Schnurr wrote that this targeted approach seems to undermine the claim that these cards are educational.


There is concern that the distribution of these cards by or in Catholic churches by NRLC would constitute prohibited intervention by participating churches in a political campaign in violation of section 501(2)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, potentially jeopardizing tax-exempt status. The archbishop said there is significant risk to that status, according to attorneys for the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, from the distribution of these cards under the described circumstances.


NRLC is not exempt under section 501(2)(3) of the Code, and thus is not subject to the prohibition against political campaign intervention.


The proposed NRLC action, which has been designed to coincide with the Fortnight for Freedom, would transform the program of prayer, education, and witness in support of religious freedom into a partisan event — precisely what the Bishops’ so assiduously wish to avoid, Schnurr said.


“Fortnight for Freedom is a principled effort to preserve religious liberty, not a partisan political exercise,” Schnurr said.


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