Friday, May 20, 2011

Politicizing prayer

Bradlee Dean, in his vestments (track suit), strode to the podium. Today, it was rumored, the Marriage Discrimination Amendment would be up for a vote. And with Reverend Dean delivering the invocation, the message seemed clear: we're not happy with simply putting this amendment on the ballot, we want to rub your noses in it too.

The Right Reverend did not disappoint. He let fly with some marvelous remarks, ending it with a dollop of questioning President Obama's faith.

Under the GOP legislative leadership, even opening invocations have been politicized. Traditionally, the invocation has been a nondenominational affair. Members would invite religious leaders from their districts to lead the legislative bodies in a moment of reflection at the start of day. This session, it has become a flashpoint for controversy, triggered by those who would push their own brand of Christianity.

Lest we forget, there's an earlier incident in the Senate that's directly related to what happened today. It's also yet another reason why Dean should never have been invited (as if his comments suggesting gay people should be jailed or even executed weren't enough reason.)

Earlier this session, Sen. Terri Bonoff was rightly offended at Pastor Dennis Campbell's prayer earlier this year that excluded Judaism. Pastor Campbell's history of bashing Islam, linking it to illegal drugs and attempts to destroy the Constitution? The GOP said: We had no idea, never heard of it, we're as shocked as you are!

Where did Pastor Campbell go for support, solace, and a chance to tell his side of the story? Well, Bradlee Dean's radio show, of course! And at the time, Dean and his sidekick Jake McMillian had some prophetic words:
Campbell explained his decision to conduct an overtly Christian prayer. “One of the things that I really tried to keep in mind was that I was not praying to the Senate, we were praying to God,” he said. “One of the Senators, the Jew, did you notice he quoted from the Old Testament? — and, by the way, Jesus was a Jew — one of the Jews said, ‘If you pray to God, that’s good enough.’”

Campbell continued, “Well, then atheists could be offended. That’s not going to solve the problem and not having prayer at all is not going to solve the problem because we are going to have one freedom after another taken away.”

Dean and McMillian discussed DFL Sen. Terri Bonoff who had first protested the sectarian prayer offered by Campbell. Dean suggested that his ministry should try to take her out in 2012.

“Maybe what we need to do is get her name eradicated,” Dean said. “She’s looking to get rid of who we are as a people, well then why don’t we help her possibly leave.”
Dean's antics today are an extension of the crusade to impose one version of religious belief on the state of Minnesota and its government. According to Rep. Ernie Leidiger, who invited Reverend Dean to deliver the invocation, "he called and asked if he could speak." Old Ern had no idea, he only knew one side of the man.

Ignorance cannot be a viable excuse. Bradlee Dean is a radio show host, about to move his "Sons of Liberty" show over to flagship talker KTLK. GOP apologists have long winked at Dean's virulent rhetoric while maintaining some public distance. Well, not everyone - Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer spoke at his fundraiser, Sen. Paul Gazelka appeared on Dean's radio show earlier this month.

Why, I thought they were just a school anti-drug program! I take pictures with a lot of people! I had no idea, never heard of it, we're as shocked as you are!

The after the fact denunciations and apologies from Speaker Kurt Zellers were welcome, but a bit too late. It's become clear that those who cloak their bigotry in religion are either welcomed by Minnesota Republicans, or they are using the Minnesota GOP as a tool. Either way, it's disgusting.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

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