Political engagement by evangelical Christians

A recent survey by the Evangelical Alliance found that:

  • 93% of UK evangelical Christians were certain or likely to vote in the 2024 General Election.
  • 10% are members of a political party and/or campaign for one.
  • 38% engage in politics beyond voting in elections.
  • 70% believe that the church shouldn’t be confined to preaching and teaching the gospel and that political issues should not be left solely to politicians.

The survey also showed a small percentage of church leaders had encouraged their congregations to support or oppose particular politicians or parties.

Evangelical Christians clearly want to be engaged in politics and the political direction of our country. This is good! But this survey highlights the need for charities (including churches) to be mindful of legal guidelines when it comes to engaging in political activity.

Charity law and political activity

Key legal framework

The main guidance governing charities and political activity is the Charity Commission’s Campaigning and political activity guidance for charities (CC9). It states:

  • A charity’s purposes must be for the public benefit.
  • An organisation with political purposes will not be considered a charity.
  • Political activity is allowed if it furthers the charity’s aims, but they must stay independent and be cautious about involvement with particular political parties and candidates.

Principles for charities during elections

The Charity Commission’s guidance on elections and referendums is another key document in the run up to a general election, and includes the following principles:

  • Charities cannot have political purposes; any political activity must further its charitable aims.
  • A charity must stay independent, be balanced, and not lend support (financial or otherwise) to a specific party or candidate.
  • Charities can support or oppose specific policies. If supporting or opposing specific policies may further its charitable aims, a charity may do so, so long as it stays independent from the specific parties.
  • Trustees have a duty to protect their charity. Charities cannot be used as a vehicle for party-political views, and trustees must be alert to this, even if they hold strong party-political views themselves.

Election laws can also apply to charities. If a charity spends over £10,000 on regulated campaign activities in the 12 months leading up to an election they will need to register as a ‘non-party campaigner’. There are quite specific regulations about what “regulated campaign activities” means – and of course the timescales mean that it can be difficult to monitor the relevant spending thresholds.

Key issues for churches and Christian charities

Supporting or opposing specific policies

As Christians engaging with the secular political sphere, there will be certain policies that sit well with our biblical convictions, and others that don’t.

It’s right that we should champion good policies, and speak out against those we see as harmful or ungodly. A charity mustn’t do this in a way that would support or oppose – or even imply support or opposition of – particular parties or candidates, and should instead focus on their policy proposals. Any activity must be done in the best interests of the charity, for the furthering of their charitable purpose.

From a more relational point of view, it’s also important to bear in mind that even as Christians, we hold a diversity of political opinions, and don’t all have the same position on certain policies.

Supporting or opposing candidates or parties

Charities must not support or imply support for specific political parties or candidates.

This can be challenging for those who hold strong political views, especially if members of a church congregation are generally of a similar political consensus. It’s important though that charities show neutrality and ensure balanced political engagement.

Engagement by trustees, employees, or church members

Charity trustees, staff, and church members can run as political candidates. We’ll want to love and prayerfully support the good that such brothers and sisters in Christ are trying to achieve.

However, the charity mustn’t become a vehicle for the individual’s campaign, nor align with (or be seen to align with) that individual’s party. The risk of this perceived alignment is greater the more senior the role – trustees and senior members of staff who are campaigning or running as candidates will bring greater risk to the charity.

Use policies and procedures for staff and trustees – such as a risk assessment, conflicts of interest, and social media usage policy – to mitigate risks and protect the charity. Some charity leaders have temporarily stepped down from their role to stand for election, demonstrating distance between their personal views and those of the charity they work for.

Polling station sign outside a church building

Photo by Red Dot on Unsplash

Use of church or charity premises by political groups

Churches and other charities commonly rent out space to outside groups to generate income they can use in gospel activity.

Churches and charities can rent out their premises to political groups. However, as above, the key to this is risk mitigation and balance. Charities must ensure neutrality, and so mustn’t show partiality to a particular party or group (for example by offering space for free or discounted to a certain group but not others).

Having said that, there may be certain groups or parties that a church or charity wouldn’t feel comfortable renting out space to. In these cases, the trustees need to have clear reasons why refusing a certain party or candidate would be in the best interests of the charity.

Visits by prospective candidates

Election candidates may visit local charities as part of their campaign, particularly ones that align with their campaign or party values. Some charities may even invite candidates to field questions so their benefactors can be better informed on policies.

While such interactions can be beneficial, charity trustees need to be aware of the risks. Again, charities mustn’t endorse or be seen to endorse specific candidates or parties. This risk will obviously be higher if only one candidate visits the charity, and it would be better to ensure that a range of views are represented.

Handling incidents

Failing to follow these principles could cause significant harm to the charity and its reputation, which may amount to a serious incident. If the trustees believe that a serious incident has occurred they must promptly report it to the Charity Commission and then note that they have done so on their annual return. The Commission guidance, ‘How to report a serious incident in your charity’ will help trustees determine whether an incident should be reported.

Political engagement that furthers the gospel and protects the charity

At its heart, the charity law and surrounding guidance on engaging in political activity aims to keep charities charitable.

As churches and Christian charities, we want to be actively engaging in our wider culture and society, and doing so in a way that furthers the gospel and protects our ministry and people.

Resources and further reading:

By sticking to these principles and resources, charity trustees and church leaders can navigate a tricky but potentially fruitful area of their gospel ministry.


(Editor’s note: this article was first published prior to the 2024 UK General Election and has since been updated to maintain relevance.)


This information has been provided by solicitors working for Edward Connor Solicitors. It is designed for the purpose of knowledge sharing only and does not constitute legal advice.

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