A local church has hung a Black Lives Matter flag on its property. Recalling the movie line ...If you build it, they will come … there is local concern, if nothing else, that this may encourage an unwelcome activist element associated with much of this past year’s violent protests. The church took the flag down after community complaints. A new church administration has put it back up. With its tax-free status, should the church be prohibited from flying this politically active flag?
I think you may be confusing the prohibition on electioneering and the limitation on lobbying for 501(c)(3) charities with your description of this flag as “politically active.”
A church, like every other 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is prohibited from “electioneering,” i.e. taking a position for or against a candidate for public office. It could lose its tax-exempt status by posting a sign to “Re-elect Senator X.” It would also be limited in the amount of activity it could spend in trying to change laws regarding the criminal justice system.
But churches, like other charities, are free to take positions on moral issues, like thinking that Black lives actually do matter. Some may think this sentiment is “political,” but it is not intervention in an election campaign or support for or opposition to specific legislation. There is no limitation on posting a sign just because it may be controversial or its sentiment may be opposed by others.
It is unfortunate that some think the sign could attract an “unwelcome activist element” to the community. The stated purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is to end state-sanctioned violence against Black communities and end white supremacy. Some may wonder whether the unwelcome element is the group that wants to reach these goals, or those who want to prevent them from doing so. We are a very polarized country, but we should strive to reach a place where a sign promotes discussion and not violence.