Candidates and campaigns might reap a much larger windfall than pastors or houses of worship, said Wilcox. Partisan organizations could organize as houses of worship, thereby gaining tax-exempt status without any restrictions on their political activities. "This would be the new campaign-finance loophole," like the so-called 527s that are active in the current election, he noted.

Even if not going that far, political operatives would have "incentives to use churches as a means to funnel campaign funds into politics, bypassing the campaign-finance laws," said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

"In this context, the lives of pastors might change a lot, as would the lives of congregations," he said. "And politics might well become more polarized as religious communities become more polarized."

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