A clergy friend of mine recently posted a question on Facebook regarding the minefield of clergy or churches making political endorsements. I responded that I have no respect (or fear) of the law that says that churches, like other 501 C 3's risk losing their tax exempt status if they make an endorsement. I would argue that the 1st amendment says that churches can do what they feel they need to do without fear of reprisal from government agencies... but that is another discussion. I went on to say that churches still should not make endorsements. Here's why.
First off, even the most homogeneous of congregations still have some diversity of thought. To endorse a candidate will certainly disenfranchise anyone who supports another candidate or even those who are questioning.
Most importantly though, every candidate will at times make stands or statements that fly in the face of commitments that we must make as followers of Jesus. If we have endorsed a candidate, it can be very difficult to stand against those actions. That will damage any claims of credibility we have in the world.
I was particularly struck by this in the recent VP debate. Mike Pence calls himself an evangelical Christian and is the darling of the conservative Christian political movement, often being touted as a future presidential candidate. Again and again, he responded to challenges from Kaine with "that isn't true" or "we never said that" when there evidence is right there on the web for all to see.
We expect politicians to exaggerate and even to make promises that they have little intention of keeping... but to flat out deny reality, to lie bold faced, is another matter. For people who call themselves followers of the one who is The Truth to so readily abandon that commitment to truth telling only tells us that they are not really so committed to The Truth as they claim.
We can argue whether one candidate is less truthful than another. There are websites that track such things, as biased as they may be. In any case, that only supports my argument that churches need to avoid endorsements. If facing the truth makes us squirm at our chosen candidate... then maybe we need a different one.