Ed Olson to Churches: With moderates at the helm, the taxman cometh
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.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.
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."
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?...
Read that all here.
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.and...
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.
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.