Is it OK for a Church to Endorse Paul TenHaken for Mayor?

I’m not sure if it is against any campaign laws for a church to endorse a candidate. We have often heard of different churches getting involved with politics at the pulpit. When Thune was running against Daschle many Catholics had complained to me that priests were endorsing Thune from the pulpit because he was Anti-Choice. I’m a big believer of separation of church and state. What does the Bible say? Well it is a bit cloudy;

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” – Romans 13; 1-2

But I’m also a big believer of the 1st Amendment and the right of anyone to speak their mind. If a pastor wants to endorse Paul personally that is his right. But can he really do it from the pulpit or from the church’s FB page?

But is this situation different because of the non-profit status of churches?

As you can see, Paul’s charity organization, TenFold (Dutch Mafia) gave a substantial amount of money in 2016 to his church. Of course at that time, he hadn’t announced he was running for mayor, even though there was rumors about it. FULL IRS DOC: Church-IRS-2016

So legal beagles, is this questionable?


#1 Warren Phear on 04.15.18 at 9:45 am

How about campaign contributions from householders under the age of 18? Asking for a friend.

#2 Knothead Peasant on 04.15.18 at 10:01 am

It is time we change the laws to start taxing churches and religious organizations. Much needed revenue and then they will more free to endorse whomever and whatever they choose. Too much abuse out there the way it is. Aside from politics Joel Olsteen is a good example of having a very lucrative franchise.

#3 Robert Mehling on 04.15.18 at 10:08 am

He seriously owns an LLC called the Dutch Mafia?

#4 LJL on 04.15.18 at 1:02 pm

Yes… Dutch Mafia

Lots of nonprofits endorse but churches make you wonder? I”m sure you have no problem with unions endorsing.

#5 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.15.18 at 1:17 pm

Tenfold and Dutch Mafia are two separate entities. Tenfold is a non-profit, while Dutch Mafia is a private investment company.

To answer the question of your title, well, isn’t it a violation of the “Johnson Rule” of the IRS for a church to endorse a political candidate? Shalom Christian Reform Church’s endorsement should place its tax exemption into jeopardy, in my opinion.

The issue isn’t freedom of speech. The issue is the status of their tax exemption given the substance of the exercise of that free speech.

If Paul wants to give his church $ 14,500 from his non profit, that’s his own business. But apparently in 2016, he gave his church a significant amount of money from his non profit, then the next year they publicly endorsed him, which the latter appears to violate a stipulation of an IRS ruling concerning tax exemptions, churches, and political endorsements.

#6 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.15.18 at 1:27 pm

It is also kind of ironic that we are discussing all of this on a Sunday, April 15th! Maybe its God’s will….. 😉

#7 Paul Been Takin on 04.15.18 at 1:31 pm

#8 No More Old Boys on 04.15.18 at 2:11 pm

Aren’t churches held to the same standard as 501(c)(3) organizations? If so, a public endorsement is illegal.

#9 Matthew Paulson on 04.15.18 at 2:20 pm

Robert – Yes, he does. You can look it up on the secretary of state’s website here:

#10 l3wis on 04.15.18 at 2:23 pm

Apparently the consensus is that it is illegal for the church to endorse him.

#11 Michael Wyland on 04.15.18 at 2:27 pm

For those interested, Google “pulpit freedom Sunday” and “Johnson Amendment”.

Since 1954, 501(c)(3) charities, including religious congregations, are prohibited from endorsing or opposing candidates or contributing in elections.

However, there has been much discussion on the political right that this prohibition constitutes an unconstitutional abridgement of First Amendment freedom of speech. Hence the “pulpit freedom Sunday” movement and moves by the GOP in Congress to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment to allow 501(c)(3) groups to endorse, but not fund, candidates and campaigns.

In South Dakota, we have already experienced the weakening of barriers between 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and 501(c)(4) social welfare groups in the 2016 pro-IM 22 campaign. For more, see my article for The Nonprofit Quarterly: “Prairie Playground for Special Interests to Test Campaign Finance Initiative”

#12 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.15.18 at 2:31 pm

But you know the “Mafia,” they do whatever they want….. They don’t call them Dutch ovens for “nothing.”

#13 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.15.18 at 2:49 pm

The “Johnson Rule” is not a violation of the First Amendment. No one is preventing a church from practicing their First Amendment rights because of that rule. It is just that you will lose your non profit status if you start endorsing candidates.

As far as unions endorsing, well, unions are not a religion, they are in essence a political organization of workers of all creeds and or non believers…. Unions might be a threat to the Chamber, but they are not a threat to ones religion or non religious status….

Empowering religions to publicly endorse candidates without tax consequences is a violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state, where you allow the government to subsidize religion through the lack of taxation and then indirectly subsidize a religion’s political beliefs at the potential jeopardy to other creeds or non believers political beliefs and or mere existence……

#14 LJL on 04.15.18 at 2:55 pm

Well…. I had to fact check myself – unions cannot be a non profit.

I wouldn’t want my church to endorse a candidate, but I cant help think about how a church is not suppose to because they pay no taxes, while MN NPR certainly does everything they can to promote the Dem party and receives tax funding.

I’ll say it again, I find open and free speech the easiest way to choose who I want to associate myself with.

#15 Jerrald Zeigler on 04.15.18 at 4:48 pm

This is a blatant violation of the separation of church and state! Politicians are definitely not able to receive endorsements or contributions from a church, mosque, temple, or any other organizations of worship! He should drop out of the race before being convicted of special interests involving religion!

#16 D@ily Spin on 04.15.18 at 5:13 pm

Why has there not been church support for others in the past? For me, this irregularity is reason enough to not vote for him. We do not need a mayor occupied defending federal charges and trying to run a business on the side. Mayor is a full time responsibility.

#17 D@ily Spin on 04.15.18 at 5:19 pm

We need a mayor, not a Mafia Godfather. TenHaken belongs in Sioux Center (Iowa). It’s all Dutch and it’s own country.

#18 caheidelberger on 04.15.18 at 6:16 pm

If TenHaken really wants to promote using a mayoral race to push the “pulpit freedom” movement, that’s all the more reason to nip his political rise in the bud now.

It’s also terrible practice for a pastor to make such an endorsement. Surely not every member of the church supports TenHaken for mayor. The pastor alienates parishioners by taking this active political stand.

#19 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.15.18 at 6:18 pm

We want a mayor for all of the people. When he (Paul) is called the “Christian candidate” at a local forum and then responds by talking about his positions on race and transgender issues, then we have a problem. The simple answer to that question should have been to have said he will not apologize for his faith, but that he wants to be a mayor for all of the people.

Instead, he re-enforced stereotypes about fundamentalists based on particular issues, and in so doing, he demonstrated that his ability to be a mayor for all is in question; which is specially ironic when you consider that this election is suppose to be a straight forward non partisan race for all of the people.

His answers also suggest that he is somehow different then those that he congregates with on a regular basis; and when you consider they have openly endorsed him in obvious violation of the Johnson rule or Amendment, then you have to wonder whose side he really is on?

#20 D@ily Spin on 04.15.18 at 6:54 pm

Do we need a runoff election if he’s already defeated himself?

#21 anonymous on 04.16.18 at 5:56 am

Neither candidate is qualified to lead a (small) city of this size.

I will cast a vote May lst for Loetscher, BUT only in order to try to stop TenHaken from being elected.

#22 Michael Wyland on 04.16.18 at 8:33 am


Most labor unions are nonprofit corporations. They are recognized by the IRS as tax exempt as 501(c)(5) organizations – the same provision of the code that addresses farmers’ cooperatives.

What most people refer to as “nonprofits” are actually 501(c)(3) organizations – private foundations and public charities. They are the most common variety of tax exempt organization recognized by the IRS.

#23 D@ily Spin on 04.16.18 at 9:55 am

Bringing in religious affiliation and Dutch heritage alienates the majority such that there’s prejudice. On the other hand, I can make good money selling wood shoes at the Benson Flea Market.

#24 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.16.18 at 11:17 am

People should dress up like a Soprano in wooden shoes for his next rally.

#25 FeelingBlueInARedState on 04.16.18 at 11:20 am

Let me just put there here:

#26 FeelingBlueInARedState on 04.16.18 at 11:40 am

TenFold 990’s:

#27 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.16.18 at 12:10 pm

Thanks FBIARS!

It looks like he gave his church $ 28535 over the course of three years via Tenfold….. I think they call that an endorsement installment plan.

He also appears to have given quite a bit of money to anti-choice groups too….. I wonder what pro-choice Republican women, who voted for Jamison and Entenman, think of that?…. (Hey, the Minnehaha GOP made this question possible, what can I say?)

#28 LJL on 04.16.18 at 12:44 pm

Wow. I have to reverse my reverse.

So I’ll ask it again, if the AFLCIO can be tax exempt and endorse candidates and parties, why not any entity? How is the Johnson rule constitutional?

#29 LJL on 04.16.18 at 12:47 pm

I’ would be very interested in the expense report of TenHakens charity.

#30 D@ily Spin on 04.16.18 at 12:50 pm

‘A Soprano in Wood Shoes’. Good one VSG.

#31 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.16.18 at 2:05 pm


I knew you would ask that question and I am glad you did.

To answer the question, well, there is no such thing as the doctrine of the separation of unions and state….

Although, Governor Walker from Wisconsin thinks there is one…

#32 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.16.18 at 2:24 pm

I can’t wait until he uses his charity to build a water park, like Jim Bakker of PTL fame once did…. It’ll be a great stress reliever after losing to Jo….. (“We should have never brought Tapio into our camp!”)

#33 Michael Wyland on 04.16.18 at 3:26 pm


501(c)(3) nonprofits (private foundations and public charities) are regulated differently from other types of nonprofits. The reason is that donors may make tax deductible gifts to 501(c)(3) groups, but not to most other types of tax exempt organizations.

Religious congregations are treated as 501(c)(3) public charities, but they do not have to apply for tax exemption from the IRS – they are presumed to qualify as tax exempt. However, if they break the rules associated with 501(c)(3) tax exemption, a religious congregation and/or its leaders may be sanctioned by the IRS just as any other 501(c)(3) group might be.

#34 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.16.18 at 3:47 pm

“they are presumed to qualify as tax exempt.”

And doesn’t the presumption come from the natural necessity to maintain a wall between church and state?

#35 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.16.18 at 4:45 pm

John F. Kennedy

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

[Remarks to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, September 12 1960]

#36 Peter "Mega" Pischke on 04.16.18 at 6:41 pm

Should churches be in politics? That is a solid question.

Personally I think churches should have the right to do so, but in general shouldn’t.

Especially if it is on one candidate over another, instead of a social issue that is religious related: abortion for example.

My church very rarely steps into a political issue, and never advocates a certain candidate.

All this being said: Pastors and churches have used the pulpit to endorse candidates and policies since before the founding of our nation.

I imagine that as long as there are churches there will be some folks who lead them that want to wade into politics.

#37 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.16.18 at 8:35 pm

There is a big difference between picking issues versus picking candidates from the pulpit. MLK spoke of issues from the pulpit, but that is an example of petitioning your government, where as when you endorse a candidate from the pulpit you want to be the government….. Because, do we want churches to be the government? And if so, which established religion do you want to be paramount?…. How about Deism? That was the prevailing religion of many of our fore fathers. Yet, Deists do not believe in the Holy Trinity, so how could they ever be a Christian example?…. But they are a religion.