What Can Cultural Non-Profit Groups Do Politically?

Hi Everyone,

Due to the events going on at Henoko, Okinawa, and the petition to try and save the coral reef and help protect the rights of the Okinawan people, there has been a lot of talk as to why the worldwide Okinawan clubs (kenjinkai or 県人会), such as the Hawaii United Okinawa Association (HUOA) doesn’t help Okinawa and support Okinawan issues.

In case you are not away, the HUOA, as well as some other Okinawan cultural organizations around the world, have refused to support Okinawa, Okinawan issues, and our petition. Their reason has been that they “can’t get involved in politics because they don’t want to violate their tax-exempt non-profit status.”

However, this is a lie. A BIG lie.

The truth is cultural non-profit organizations have a lot of room to get involved in politics. They are free to educate their members and the public about political issues, and are even encouraged by the U.S. government to do so. Also, their individual leaders and members are free to personally discuss politics and take political stances. (However, the leaders of the HUOA have again refused to do so.) Cultural non-profit groups under U.S. law are even allowed to participate in lobbying to a certain extent. All they have to do is work with IRS to set a certain threshold dollar amount on which they can lobby.

Here’s some information about it from the lawyers Perlman & Perlman, LLP.

501(c)(3) organizations may safely engage in the following activities:

  1. Educate the public on issues and generally encourage participation in the political process.
  2. Make presentations on your organization’s issue to platform committees, campaign staff, candidates, media, and the general public
  3. Educate all candidates and political parties on your issues.
  4. Continue your normal lobbying on issues, subject to the limitations described above.
  5. Work on behalf of a ballot measure.
  6. Conduct or participate in a nonpartisan candidate forum, so long as the forum: (a) is open to all candidates, (b) is run in a balanced way, and (c) includes a broad range of nonpartisan questions for the candidates.
  7. Rent or sell mailing lists to candidates at fair market value, if made available to all candidates.
  8. Conduct voter registration drives and nonpartisan get-out-the-vote efforts, subject to the following limitations:
  • Drives must be designed to educate the public about the importance of voting.

  • Activities cannot be biased for or against any candidate or party.

  • Nonprofits can target areas in nonpartisan ways. For instance, nonprofits may target low-turnout areas, low-income populations, minority populations, and students.

  • Nonprofits may target registration and turnout efforts to the areas or people they serve.

For those who are interested in reading the full article, here’s the link:

https://www.perlmanandperlman.com/political-activity-and-nonprofits-501c3s-beware/

So if any Okinawan cultural group refuses to support Okinawa, they cannot use their non-profit status as an excuse. It is the right of any group to refuse to get involved in politics. However, they should simply say that they do not want to get involved, rather than lie and make poor excuses about it.

And if an Okinawan cultural group refuses to support Okinawa, the human rights of the Okinawan people, and the issues that are drastically affecting their lives, is that group really an Okinawan group?

By not supporting the rights of the Okinawan people, they are in effect supporting the status quo, that is, Japanese and American prejudice and genocide against Okinawans.

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