The Church News is moving. It has just announced that stories from the Church News will be posted on DeseretNews.com, that LDSChurchNews.com will redirect to the DN site, and that eventually the archives will be moved as well.
Which is fine and good, I suppose. Apparently, the Church News was hosted on a platform that couldn’t be supported or upgraded.[fn1] So the consolidation seems to make sense from a technical point of view.
It may not make as much sense from a tax point of view, though. As I’ve explained before, churches cannot campaign for or against a candidate for office; if they do so, they risk losing their tax-exempt status.
And what does that have to do with moving the Church News to the Deseret News site? Just this: the Church News, according to the sidebar to the article, is an official LDS publication. And the endorsement of opposition of candidates in an official church publication can be attributed to the Church. As the IRS illustrates in its Tax Guide for Churches & Religious Organizations:
Example 3 Minister C is the minister of Church I, a section 501(c)(3) organization. Church I publishes a monthly church newsletter that is distributed to all church members. In each issue, Minister C has a column titled “My Views.” The month before the election, Minister C states in the “My Views” column, “It is my personal opinion that Candidate U should be reelected.” For that one issue, Minister C pays from his personal funds the portion of the cost of the newsletter attributable to the “My Views” column. Even though he paid part of the cost of the newsletter, the newsletter is an official publication of the church. Because the endorsement appeared in an official publication of Church I, it constitutes political campaign intervention by Church I. [fn2]
So far, the Church News shouldn’t have any problem with this. It doesn’t endorse candidates or, as far as I know, discuss politics at all. If the Church News is the same as it was when I last read it, it gives news about what Church members and units are doing, spiritual thoughts, and the like.
At this point, I was going to say that the Deseret News, on the other hand, can endorse candidates. Then I did a quick Google search and discovered that it has a policy of not endorsing candidates, and, in despair, I gave up on this post. And then, a few hours later, I realized that the Deseret News can, in fact, endorse candidates, whether or not it currently chooses to. And, in fact, newspaper endorsements are valuable. Not in the big-ticket races, of course, but local newspapers often have the ability to provide valuable information about lower-profile local races, like judicial elections. So even though the Deseret News may currently choose not to endorse candidates, it could change its mind.
Unless somehow, by hosting the Church News, the Deseret News gets infected (as it were) by the Church News’s official status. I don’t know that that will happen, of course: the internet is new enough, and the confluence between standard editorializing newspaper and official religious publication rare enough, that there are no clear standards.
Still, it’s probably advisable that the Deseret News work to maintain actual independence from the Church News, somehow establishing standards and signals to readers to indicate that the Church News, even with a Deseret News url, is a completely separate entity.
[fn1] I’m really not sure what that means–maybe it’s somehow Windows XP-related?
[fn2] This is from p. 8. Emphasis added.