Is the Mainstream Coalition a little more sinister than we've been led to believe?

As I think I had noted in my prior post, some of the activities of the Mainstream Coalition's counterpart down in Kansas had been related to me with a notation that they might not be as inocuous as they've been portrayed in the media.

Apparently they also had the media and Democrats gushing over them. And then there were charges of espionage?

In South Dakota, I've read the articles just like you all, and there's people involved with the Mainstream Coalition that I personally like, such as Ed Olson and Jan Nicolay. I might not agree with them setting up a political organization separate from the GOP, because I'm not sure how it makes Republicans stronger. But it's certainly a free country, and no one needs to ask my permission, as I didn't ask anyone else's to start my corner of the blogosphere.

But getting back to the topic at hand. There's this group of Mainstreamers. Some are friends and acquaintances. And they're doing their thing and getting their group on it's feet. But then I read about what this group does in another state. And it's not positive.

What I'm reading here is *troubling* to put it lightly when it's related to the possible future activities of South Dakota's Mainstream Coalition. From the 6/30/2004 edition of the Kansas City Star as related by Free Republic:

Starting next month, the person seated next to you in church might not be there for the prayer, the fellowship or even the word of God.

Instead, about 100 volunteers will be attending services in Johnson County to look for overt election-year politicking from the pulpit, which could violate federal law.

It is the latest volley in an ongoing struggle between conservative and moderate political forces in Kansas. The issue of gays and marriage provided the trigger.

Upset at the Kansas Legislature for defeating a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the Rev. Jerry Johnston, pastor of First Family Church in Overland Park, invited area clergy members to a meeting this month. About 100 came, he said. Churches, he said, must get more involved in politics. “God calls a minister to speak on moral issues,” Johnston said.

Concerned that religious leaders might stir up support for their favored legislative candidates, the Mainstream Coalition, a group that seeks to preserve the separation of church and state, decided to respond.

Volunteers were recruited. Letters are being mailed to more than 400 houses of worship in Johnson County reminding them of Internal Revenue Service rules on electioneering and telling them that their services may be monitored.


Under IRS rules, tax-exempt groups like religious organizations must not participate in political campaigns for or against a candidate . Some political activities are permitted, such as voter education or registration conducted in a nonpartisan manner. Alleged violations could bring federal scrutiny and possible loss of tax-exempt status.

The Mainstream Coalition will ask its volunteers to report their observations after each visit to a house of worship. If a serious breach of rules is found, a complaint might be filed with the IRS, the group said.

They won't find any violations at Westside Family Church in Shawnee, said its pastor, the Rev. Dave Cox, one of the clergy who met with Johnston.

“We're well aware of our restrictions,” he said. “We're also well aware of our liberties.”

In the past, the church has done “a little bit” to encourage involvement in politics, Cox said. Next month, he said, the church will do more. “We're going to try to ratchet up,” he said.

Read it all here! This is even more timely, in that South Dakota will be voting on the very issue of the definition of marriage this next year as Constitutional Amendment C in the 2006 November General Election.

It's almost a little surreal. The Mainstreamers organized in Kansas to send covert operatives into churches to spy on congregations? In Catholic mass do I have to be concerned that the person I'm giving the greeting of peace to is a Mainstream Spy?

So far, in South Dakota the Mainstream Coalition has had their honeymoon period of Judy Olson gushing over them, and Republicans acting like disapproving in-laws. Now that the honeymoon is over, it might be a good opportunity to take a serious look at what this group is doing in other states and to question whether those same activities are going to happen here.

Otherwise, you might not be able to trust that the person sitting in the pew next to you isn't a spy.

Add this link and this link to your reading on the topic. This is also an interesting link asking "Who appointed them to be the thought police?"

And then there's the accusation of catholic bashing on the coalition's part.

Any SD Mainstreamers care to comment on all of this? Because somebody's going to inevitably ask "Is this what we can expect in South Dakota during the 2006 election?"


Anonymous said…
PP – your take on this is interesting. After reading the article I was less concerned about the guy in the pew next to me and more concerned that our houses of worship being turned into GOTV tools for candidates. I guess it is all a matter of perspective.
PP said…
“We're well aware of our restrictions,” he said. “We're also well aware of our liberties.”

GOTV tools? I doubt it. But those organizations like any other are allowed to express opinions on issues.

I'm troubled that an organization could potentially advocate sending in spies to houses of worship.

If they want to elevate politics in SD, this wouldn't be the way to go about it.
jack said…
You're concerned about a group of taxpaying citizens keeping an eye out for potential violations of federal election law? If the churches in South Dakota are abiding by federal law, then there is no need for them to be monitored, and there is no need for you to be concerned. The fact that you think it "un-Republican" for any group to question whether certain conservative groups and organizations are abiding by election law is telling.

And, to be sure, you don't exactly have a solid track record on zero tolerance for violations of election law. You were the one who referred to the actions of Larry Russell -- who was forced to resign because of his involvement illegal voter registration efforts -- as "act[ing] with honor," and "an example of doing the right thing." -

I enjoy your blog, and you often have some entertaining tidbits that can't be found anywhere else, but I, like most voters, have zero tolerance for violations of federal election law. Suggesting that some -- whether they be a GOTV worker, candidate or church -- should be able to violate the law in order to win an election is certainly not 'elevating the politics in SD.'

I don't understand why you completely dismiss criticism of Republicans implicated in election fraud schemes, or why you think it wrong for conservative churches to be monitored for violations of federal election law.

I am certainly critical of Maka Duta -- what she did was absolutely wrong. I certainly won't defend any Democratic Party staffers who were involved in breaking any election laws -- whether they be here or anywhere. Maybe that makes me a 'bad Democrat,' and if so, so be it. But why are you so defensive when anyone suggests that Republicans who break election laws -- state or federal -- should be held accountable?
Anonymous said…
Great article. Apparently unlike a few of your readers, I get it. Conservatives need to become much more aggressive and active in the GOP. Maybe this is the reason that the South Dakota GOP is attempting to keep the grass roots out of the state party conventions. Is there a grand left-wing conspiracy in Pierre and throughout the GOP to silence conservatives? I, frankly, believe there is and we conservatives need to fight fire with fire. PP, please continue to keep us informed.
Anonymous said…
“Conservatives need to become much more aggressive and active in the GOP.”

“Is there a grand left-wing conspiracy in Pierre and throughout the GOP to silence conservatives?”

Are you serious? The legislature is so far to the right of average South Dakotans that the statements above seem asinine. This is the institution that has tried to ban all abortions even though polls show 75% of South Dakotans believe in the right to an abortion in, at least, some circumstances. The social conservatives have taken over the GOP in this state. Spend any amount of time in Pierre and this becomes obvious.
Bob Newland said…
When haven't we had to consider that the person next to us isn't a spy?
Anonymous said…
God bless you Bob Newland. And the only conspiracy in Pierre is to keep the wack jobs in the GOP some what sedated w/a bone here and there through constant abortion legislation and failed restrictions so as to not alientate the remaining 75% of the party. Lord help the rest of the state if they got off of this issue and moved on to something they could actually change or effect.
PP said…
Bob, that was genuinely hilarious.

And for the detractors, My comments were related to the fact that I hope this isn't what the South Dakota Mainstream Coalition is about.

Because the average church-going South Dakotan isn't really going to appreciate someone sitting next to them in church for purposes of pulpit monitoring.

Do I expect my catholic priest to express an opinion of how Catholic dogma applies to the issues of the day, such as on abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage, etc.? Yes.

Do they say "Vote for Candidate X"? no.

Do they follow me into the voting booth? Again, No.

So it's up to me to exercise the free will that God has given me and hopefully make choices that agree with the values of my religion.

Do I always do that? No. And if I didn't have free will, I'm sure I'd be better about going to church.
Aaaaaannd, if the legislature was "so far to the right of average South Dakotans that the statements above seem asinine" then why are there so gosh darn many of us Republicans elected year in and out at the State Legislative level?

Possibly because the truth is closer to Dems being somewhat to the left of the average South Dakotan? Possibly?

Food for thought.
Anonymous said…
“then why are there so gosh darn many of us Republicans elected year in and out at the State Legislative level?”

Simple answer: they control the redistricting process. The state is split about 48% republican to 39% democrat but there are only 8 legislative districts, out of 35, where there are more democrats then republicans. The redistricting process is what makes the legislature so republican and, in turn, so conservative. All you have to do is look at how close the high profile statewide races are. Democrats win as many as republicans. Put me in charge of redistricting and I could come up with democrat majorities.

(now PP, I know it takes more then a favorable district to win, but a favorable district sure helps)

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