Why are we non-partisan?
There are three reasons that we do not favor any party or candidate in our election work, one is legal, one is practical, and one relates to our faith:
Nonprofit faith groups like UULM-MD are prohibited by federal law from engaging in any campaign on behalf of a candidate for office or a party. This is part of the Internal Revenue Code, and a nonprofit can lose its tax-exempt status if it violates the law. Individual Unitarian Universalists are free to engage in any partisan or political work as individuals (and we encourage them to do so), but UULM-MD cannot support them in doing so or even refer people to a campaign or party.
To avoid anything that could be construed as crossing the bright line of the law (into political campaigning), we make sure our members know that they cannot share party or candidate information while engaged in any activity on behalf of UULM-MD. We make it clear to our members that those participating should not use our communications (emails, texts, etc.) to support or discuss specific candidates or parties. However, they are free (and encouraged) to support the candidates of their choice when they are not doing UU the Vote work.
Conducting voter registration, education and turnout activities as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization is more effective in increasing voter turnout than any political campaign can be.
The studies have shown that being approached by nonpartisan groups instead of parties or candidates have a significantly higher impact on turnout. While this always has the risk of encouraging someone to vote in a way we personally would not like, it can be a powerful tool for our values when it is properly focused, i.e. on underrepresented or lower-voting populations. There is an important role we can play in encouraging voting by those with the most to lose in the election. While it may also supplement rather than compete with political campaigns that we might favor, we are not working for a party or candidate.
In addition, advocating for a particular party or candidate does not make others feel welcome in our faith if they hold different opinions. If we hope to grow our faith, we should not be turning people away by disparaging their opinions.
Our fifth principle calls us to "affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” Since our First Principle affirms the dignity and worth of all people, how can we show that we
value all people if we don’t allow them to give voice or vote to their own beliefs and
conscience? We respect the inherent worth of all people by giving them equal
opportunity to participate in governance. In conjunction with this principle, we advocate
for inclusion, expansion of the franchise to include those who have been marginalized, so
that all can have a voice in where we go and how we get there.
We believe strongly that support by a nonpartisan faith group for communities of color, youth, and poorer people in making their voices heard through the ballot box is an essential part of restoring our democracy and returning us to a progressive course. It also backs up the lip service we pay to building Beloved Community, since we intend to engage in real, meaningful conversations about values (and how to vote them) that we hope will continue past the elections.
For these reasons, we are strictly nonpartisan and will not campaign for any candidate.