Ed Olson to Churches: With moderates at the helm, the taxman cometh

Dave Kranz has a telling story today. In his Argus Leader column, he features a story on how Ed Olson, with (as Dave terms it) the moderates firmly in control they're thinking issues. And what's the first issue that Ed is talking about targeting? Taxing Churches.
State Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell, was a key player in putting together the Mainstream Coalition of legislators who were tired of being branded as a bunch of anti-God, pro-death legislators.

Olson took a visible position with the largely Republican group that was trying to communicate a moderate, and sometimes liberal, point of view about social issues.


Olson expects another effort by lawmakers in reaction to the Referred Law 6 campaign.

"It is time to have a serious discussion about tax exemptions for churches. People are ticked, don't want to be preached to from the pulpit, didn't want signs plastered all over their house of worship. The people spoke, and their voices were heard," Olson said.

Democrat Sen. Benjamin Nesselhuf of Vermillion agrees there will be some discussion about that issue but says he isn't sure the legal combat with churches needs to be a priority, though.


With the election over and some members proclaiming victory, Olson simply says about his role, "I was trying to save the party."

Read it all here. So, in order to further combat the image as being branded a bunch of anti-God legislators, Ed wants to come out and remove the tax exemptions for churches.

That makes sense. Or not.

Is Ed forgetting June 2005, when the Department of Revenue attempted to go after churches for the use taxes they believe they should have paid on their hymnals, and sacramental wine (despite the fact they aren't something that's sold for profit)? And they caught 'holy' hell for it. Probably not.

And even if he does, it might not matter.

Why? Because I was told today by a very reliable source that this isn't the first time that Ed has considered them fair game. So the story goes, back many years ago, Ed supposedly offered via a bill or amendment a measure to allow property taxes against church property such as parking lots, etc.

Now, I don't have a paper trail to provide you at this point, so I don't have anything on this besides the personal account of a former lobbyist, so take it for that it's worth.

But moreso than that, I'd point out that you shouldn't forget that the South Dakota Mainstream Coalition organization that Ed helped found was modeled after a Kansas organization that didn't have much nice to say about churches that didn't agree with their agenda. And what did the Kansas Mainstreamers do?...

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.


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.

Read that all here.

So, now that he believes his side holds a couple of extra seats in the legislature, Ed is boldly going to go after organized religion, just like the organization he helped found did in Kansas.

Honestly, I hope he does bring this measure, and I hope the committee that's assigned to it passes it to the floor without recommendation. And then the state will get to see on an up or down vote basis which of their legislators want to attack organized religion, and which wish to retain the separation of church and state.

And then we'll see how long the moderates are firmly in control.


Anonymous said…
Special Ed!
Anonymous said…
Defer to 41st day on a 6-3 vote will be the history of this bill.
Don't even try it Ed!
Elephant's Memory said…
I agree that the bill will be tabled somehow, but it's about time someone shoved it to the jerks who use the pulpit to play hardball politics. Kick them in the ass, HARD!!!

A true conservative believes in a clear seperation between church and state. Government has no business regulating business, and far less business in the bedroom or being dictated by holy edict from some power hungry minister or priest.
Anonymous said…
After reading his posts for the last month, I think PP has either lost his way or was never a true conservative in the first place.

Most churches understand this, but you can't have it both ways. Either you are tax exempt and you refrain from political activities - or you get involved in political activities and forgo the political exemption.

What frustrates me is that, as a church going Christian, I think that most churches are not overly political. But there is a very vocal minority that are ruining it for everyone else. Hmmm... sounds like the OLD Republican Party of Frederick, Unruh and Regier.

Go Mainstream Coalition!
nonnie said…
"the people spoke," "the people are ticked" What planet is Olson living on??? I too hope he tries this and then we can see where each of our legislators stand on this issue.

If he's referring to the abortion issue, churches were simply standing up for life. Our particular church did urge people to vote for life, and I'm proud they did. Christians believe in the sanctity of life, and where is the best place to reinforce that? Right, the church. They didn't advocate any certain candidate, just an overall statement about the value of life.

If he's so concerned about taxing something, why not start with advertising? Why not try that one on for size, Ed? Makes a whole lot more sense and would probably raise a whole lot more money.
nonnie said…
Note to elephant's memory: I don't think any of the ministers or priests who advocated life are power hungry. If they were, they wouldn't be in the profession they are. They are simply standing up for life, as they should.
Anonymous said…
I thin kchurches should be taxed for other businesses they run (daycare, office rental, hose rental).
Farmers who commercial hunt should pay commercial property rates also. If commercial hunting is so lucrative lets all share in it.
Anonymous said…
The churches and their ministers answer to a higher authority than the IRS. However, I haven't heard of one allegation of a church breaking the law during the previous election cycle. I have heard complaints from "church going Christians" (as 2:12 refers to herself) who were upset that churches took a stand on certain issues. Church going Christians have sometimes have a hard time with ministers who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm one of those who used to reject so-called hardliners in the pulpit, but then I stumbled across Revelation 3:15-16 and my view changed. Pastors have a duty to their parishioners to guide them in the truth. Lukewarmth does not lead us where we'd like to go.
Anonymous said…
2:42, are the churches renting garden hose or panty hose? hehehe! kiddin'!
Anonymous said…
Ed was probably taken out of context when he was quoted as trying to "save the party."
Anonymous said…
What's really a shame is how many people think that religious leaders are prohibited from any and all political activity.

They can't campaign for candidates for public office.

But they can support, even in their respective places of worship, ballot initiatives, referendums, and public policy issues (such as referred measure 6)

The Pew Forum has a good primer on where the IRS is currently in regulating the political speech of religious leaders:

Anonymous said…
Lurch...ummmm...I mean Ed is an idiot for saying this. (seriously, have you ever seen this guy walk? Lurch=Ed Olsen)

The law is very clear that churches can do or say whatever they like when it comes to ISSUES on the ballot.

Nice try eddy!!
GOP come home said…
Elephant's memory you are a jackass in disguise.

A true conservative would read the constitution instead of spouting off about the invisible seperation of church and state.

Real conservatives understand that the 1st amendment also protects a preachers's ability to speak from the pulpit. For the 1st amendment also shields the government from getting into church business.

Besides what you are afraid of is not any constitutional violation but of the stand that churches are taking on the actual issues. Last time I checked churches are able to take an issue on social issues.

Further they are allowed to advocate for almost any cause except for particular political candidates. A true conservative, knows the constitution and doesn't spout off the liberal mantra about seperation of church and state.
Anonymous said…
If Ed did indeed save the GOP then the GOP is no longer worth saving.

His mainstream coalition is divisive and intends to turn the party away from its core values.

Mainstream coalition is against fighting abortion, is against standing up for churches, what next?

Tax increases disguised as valuation changes? Ed and Dave and Tom want to change the 150 rule so they can grow the size of government without actually voting for a tax increase.

Smaller government types should be advocating less government intrusion into the pulpit, smaller government, and standing up for values!
Anonymous said…
Just what I want...my property tax bill to go up because somebody just built a home next to me worth more than mine.

That is NOT a Republican. limited government value.

Neither is having the tax collector knocking down the doors of our churces.

It's clear that the Mainstream moderates are neither maintream or moderates.

We need GOP leaders to stand up to tax..er..valuation increases and government geeks at the doors of my church.

Reagan is rolling in his grave.
Anonymous said…
Mainstream moderates =

1) taxing churches (read thought police here)
2) abortion on demand (read anti family values here)
3) growing government by changing valuation shemes (read big government rino here)
4) Anti religous zealots

That article today was not the only time that Olson and also Adelstein made anti religious statements:

"The same article also quoted Olson as saying, "Many of us don't like the idea of putting specific religious beliefs into state law."

Also regarding the formation of the coalition, Adelstein said, “In some ways, it comes down to religion.”" From Argus Leader Kranz column in 2005.

These guys are out to get churches and religion and really it seems like payback for religious community exercising their rights during this last campaign cycle.

Knudson, Olson and the like can kiss statewide office goodbye and this will probably be thier only cycle in leadership.
Douglas said…
Seems like churches and religions in the US are kind of thankless for the grant of freedom they were given in return for keeping their noses out of government.

Perhaps none of the anonymous posters here see the irony on opposing big government at the same time they support intrusions on personal privacy and freedom by big brother slapping a hand on every women's crotch.
Anonymous said…
I am under the impression that every single mainstreamer lost their elections that had an opponent. The only reason Olson is still around, he had no opponent.

Bet that doesnt happen twice in a row,haha
GOP come home said…
Intellectual oddities like Douglas are curiously interesting...when abortion advocates frame the issue as one of personal freedom and autonomy, the only intellectually honest response is with the truth of science and liberty. Conception creates a human life distinct from the mother.

Therefore, during the nine-month pregnancy, the mother not only loses her autonomy as it relates to the life she carries, but her personal liberty becomes secondary to that life. In the hierarchical context of competing liberties, the right of human life always trumps the right to individual freedom.

For personal freedom advocates such as Douglas the paradox presented is obvious...is the life of the mother or child more important? Who should decide which life is more important?

Big government intrusive liberals want us to beleive that the government is quite able to decide a ridicously inordinate number issues for the citizenry yet when it comes to abortion, it is the one issue that government should be silent on.

Douglas, when reason, science and liberty are unable to take effect in society wihtout the force of law...is exactly the time when the force of law is neccessary for ordered liberty to succeed.
been there said…
Ed Olson is a good example of why term limits are a good idea.
If you can't go to church to try to find out what God and the Bible say about social issues, where are you supposed to go? The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Period!
Douglas said…
"Therefore, during the nine-month pregnancy, the mother not only loses her autonomy as it relates to the life she carries, but her personal liberty becomes secondary to that life. In the hierarchical context of competing liberties, the right of human life always trumps the right to individual freedom.

For personal freedom advocates such as Douglas the paradox presented is obvious...is the life of the mother or child more important? Who should decide which life is more important?"

There is no actual paradox and what part of the constitution suggests that any one life is more important than another or that a fetus is granted any rights to anything whatsoever in the Constitution?

And, there is no "inability of reasona and science to take place" unless theocracy intrudes into government and prevents expansion of knowledge and rights.

The "curious oddity" statement is projection in its finest form.
Anonymous said…
This is ridiculous...is Olson saying that churches have no place taking positions on the important moral issues of our day? 2:04 seems to think that real conservatives favor government regulation of speech in churches- riiiiight. Give me some of that good stuff you and Senator Olson are smoking.
GOP come home said…
Quite to the contrary Douglas. My argument is based on reason and science, terms that are not mutually exlcusive to theology.

We should be more alarmed of the devious Christianist project of political infiltration: Heads you’re a theocrat, tails you’re a theocrat.

One ought not be surprised by your resort to the "theocracy-implementation" counter-argument; it's a typical technique used in a debate of this sort to sidestep your opponent's argument in an effort to recast the terms of the debate).

In academic debating societies it's known as the worst technique one can employ to overcome the opposition. Points are usually taken off for that "rhetorical two-step."
douglas go home said…

Your own posting show us the paradox.

You are seeking literal language in the Constitution giving a fetus rights yet your position on abortion rests on no literal language in the Constitution.

In other words: where in the Constitution do you find the right to an abortion?

Of course "the right to an abortion" is not enumerated in the Constitution. Rather it was discovered by SCOTUS to be a protected liberty interest granted by the 14th amendment.

One more reason why this argument belongs to the voters in the states rather than unelected and unaccountable judges.
VJ said…
Ed Olson is a prime example as to why South Dakota needs more money for education!

The terrorists have won!
Anonymous said…
Hey douglASS

You are even more ignorant than I originally thought you were. The last three letters of your name says it all!
Douglas said…
There is no science in theology. It has more in common with literature or perhaps the circularity of mathematics.
"One ought not be surprised by your resort to the "theocracy-implementation" counter-argument; it's a typical technique used in a debate of this sort to sidestep your opponent's argument in an effort to recast the terms of the debate)."

Please explain the above, I am curious what an "implementation" argument is. Never heard of that one before.

I have however seen very often the attempt by those intent on limiting the freedom and privacy of women to redefine terms in ways that make no scientific sense, but give that impression even as they turn logic upside down.

Those who actually care about their churches and religion should be very wary of aligning there churches and religions with particular partisan political positions. It is a danger to both religion and the state.

I suspect some church leaders are aware of the dangers after the last election. Sleep with dogs and wake up with fleas.
Anonymous said…

it's the political causes who are aligning themselves with the churches' positions.

And as for the fleas, Jesus Christ himself was born in a manger with plenty of animals around him.
Anonymous said…
doug, you don't get it.

Nobody is establishing a theocracy. So get off it and stop berating other religions while you're at it.

You and ed olson will have plenty of time to scheme your ways into taxing churces and censoring the puplit.

Orwell was right about big brother and religion. Big brother can't compete with religion so he must destroy it.
Anonymous said…
2:04 - As a "true conservative" I know there is no such thing as separation of church and state. I also know that government cannot set up a government sponsored church. If the government chooses to tax churches then I will pay it, Jesus did. Those candidates or incumbents supporting taxation of churches, synagogs, or mosques will never see an elected seat in SD again.

2:12 - Christian are more aware of politics than the average voter. AS a person who believes that Jesus is God, I will excercise my right to vote my Christian conscience. Christians are not exempt from voting, nor electing Christian to public office. In fact it was a Reverend that played an important role in SD becoming a state.

2:42 - Again the Democrat plan revealed. Redistribute without asking.

2:53 - Amen and amen

6:21 - It was religion that granted government. America sprang from the fight for religious freedom and it was churh goers writing, signing and fighting.

10:44 - douglass, what is your theory about abortion?
Anonymous said…
When Rev. King preached from the pulpits for social and yes POLITICAL and LEGAL change in the South, did the Left cry out for separation of church and state? Or threaten his church with revocation of its tax exempt status?

No, of course not.

When Catholic bishops outright excommunicated those in the South who refused to desegregate, did the left scream?

No, of course not.

When the Catholic bishops have issued letters and directives that are pro-welfare, anti-death penalty and the like, did I hear the liberals scream that it violated the 1st Amendment?

No, of course not.

When Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton and the like run for political office over and over, did those of the leftist bent hurl invectives against them daring to put their faith based beliefs into action?

No, of course not.

When Al Gore and Bill Clinton in the middle of their respective Presidential campaigns literally stood in pulpits of African American churches, did you hear the thud of the ACLU lawsuits hitting court tables across the United States?

No, of course not.

When faith and religion drive people to conclusions the secular left like politically (such as but not limited to anti-death penalty, pro-welfare) you will not hear a peep out of them. Those are "social justice" issues, they tend to say. That makes it AOK.

Yet when faith and religion drive people to conclusions the secular left DISlike politically (such as but not limited to anti-abortion) you will see the screams of the ACLU and the threats of a thousand lawsuits. "We have a separation of church and state" they tend to say. That the particular church's views happen to just run at odds to the secular liberals' is just a coincidence.
Anonymous said…
Expect Mel Olson to replace Ed Olson in the senate in 2008.
Anonymous said…

Some original material, please? I've seen this one about 5 times now. Can you come up with something new?

Thanks in advance.
Anonymous said…
gop come home wrote:
"My argument is based on reason and science"

Yes, the perfectly reasonable belief that a zygote is a human being. Or, by analogy, that a fertilized chicken egg is a full-fledged chicken, drumsticks and all. Or that an acorn is an oak tree, with leaves, roots, bark, the whole nine. Identical.

GOP, your argument is based on something, but it certainly isn't reason.

Of course, we all know it's based on your faith and religion. That's no mystery. I just wish your type had the courage to be upfront about it.
Anonymous said…
This Country will be gone if we allow someone to take away our right to worship.

Thou Shall not Kill! If you don't think it is a child, I suggest you pray about it. It is not a chicken.
Steve Sibson said…
"Expect Mel Olson to replace Ed Olson in the senate in 2008."

Ed Olson is term limited in 2008. Mel Olson may think he can just walk right in, but he may have to contend with me first.
Anonymous said…
I am pretty sure Mel Olson is not scared of Steve Sibson.
VJ said…
If I were Mel Olson I wouldn't write Steve Sibson off too fast.

Whole lot of people in South Dakota agree with what Sibby posts. They really do!

Sibby just might surprise a few of you!

Anyway, I think it would be better to have Sibby on your side then against you!
Elephant's Memory said…
I see this post has been a regular GOTV for the Taliban wing of the GOP. You guys are ramming Abe Lincoln's party into the wall by shoving religion down people's throats and calling it government. Government doesn't belong in the religion business and religion doesn't belong on the government business. GOP Go Home, you're the best thing the Democrats have going in South Dakota. Form a third party and ruin that, or better yet, to use one of your moronic sentiments, why don't you just leave the United States?
Anonymous said…
Elephant's memory:

You seem incapable of making an argument and debating the issues.

If name calling is all you have the Taliban Wing of the Republican party is in pretty good shape.

Take your meds, we can feel your anger through the computer screen.
Anonymous said…
elephants memory, ie douglas, how many names do you go by?
Anonymous said…
Lurch is out and Sibson is in.
Anonymous said…
"Whole lot of people in South Dakota agree with what Sibby posts. They really do!"

I know. It's astonishing, isn't it?
Anonymous said…
Ed's district is too moderate for Sibby. Mel Olson can't be beat in Mitchell and there is nobody there than can out debate him. I dare Sibby to run against Mel if he runs again.
How do you spell shu-lakn'?
GOP come home said…
Elephant's memory and douglas:

you folks are all lathered up over that science and reason argument.

I love the fact that you can't paint me as a right wing religous zealot or a theocrat.

Your inability to articulate an argument and your willingness to call names only reinforces your intellectual failings.
Steve Sibson said…
"nobody there than(SIC) can out debate him"

Until me.
Anonymous said…
Does everyone remember when Roger Andal challenged Steve Sibson to a debate and Steve Sibson ran for the hills?
Anonymous said…
Sibholio couldn't debate his way out of a paper bag. Mel would school him. So many crazy ideas to get Sibholio sidetracked on, he'd lose the audience within minutes without even realizing it. I predict an 85% to 15% walloping if he takes on Mel Olson. But even that assumes he could make it through a primary, which he can't.

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