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Religious, political groups condemn Bradlee Dean prayer on Minn. House floor

In the wake of Bradlee Dean‘s controversial prayer before the Minnesota House on Friday, a number of religious and political groups condemned Dean and urged Republican leaders to disavow Dean’s prayer and his association with the House. The Minnesota Catholic Conference, which supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, said that Dean should not be associated with their movement. The ACLU, the DFL, the National Organization for Marriage, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and several legislators all weighed in on the controversy over the weekend.

Supporters of gay marriage ban respond

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy wing of the Roman Catholic Church, condemned Dean’s prayer. “It was wrong to have a person with extremist views, like those attributed to Dean, deliver the prayer in the House,” said Jason Adkins, the group’s executive director. “Dean disrespectfully turned the prayer into a polemic and his words divided the chamber rather than brought people together.”

Adkins added that just because Dean is anti-gay he shouldn’t be lumped in with those who seek a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

“It was also unfortunate that those who are opposed to a marriage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution used Dean’s remarks to portray supporters as ‘hate groups,’ as well as state falsely that Dean was there on their behalf,” he said. “As Speaker Kurt Zellers said in an apology today, which we welcome, the mistake was due to an internal oversight. Bradlee Dean does not speak for those supporting a marriage amendment in Minnesota.”

The National Organization for Marriage echoed that sentiment on its blog:

“The suggestion of violence (if this account is true) is abhorrent, especially from a man of the cloth. But should the people of Minnesota be deprived of the right to vote because somebody in the state legislature did not vet a so-called pastor?”

The group links to a Star Tribune story which refers to a statement by Dean during his May 15, 2010, radio show.

“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America,” he said. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

ACLU letter

The Minnesota ACLU sent a letter on Friday afternoon to leaders in both the House and Senate urging them to refrain from prayers when those chambers are in session.

“The Minnesota Legislature is designed to represent all Minnesota residents, regardless of faith,” said Charles Samuelson of the Minnesota ACLU. “While we applaud Representative Zellers for his apology, we urge you to refrain from opening future sessions with any type of prayer, so as to ensure that religious freedom is protected for all.”

“Any reasonable observer,” the ACLU letter said (PDF), “would have understood that Bradlee Dean’s prayer – featuring multiple references to ‘Jesus’ – promoted Christianity.”

Politicians speak out

And Mayor Rybak weighed in in a video interview with Capitol Conversations: “To actually invite a minister that talked the jailing of [LGBT] people to give the invocation on the floor of the Minnesota Capitol, I don’t understand that.”

Rep. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, sent an email to constituents condemning Dean.

“The emotions on this issue ran hot this morning when GOP legislators invited Bradlee Dean to deliver the opening prayer,” he wrote. “In case you are unfamiliar with Bradlee Dean, he is a hateful ‘preacher’ who has proclaimed that gays belong in jail and that he would ‘approve the death penalty for gays.’ His mere presence was insulting, but his ‘prayer’ was offensive as well.”

He continued, “I was very upset this kind of speech would be allowed inside the House chamber – or any place. Whether it is African Americans, women or the LGBT community, Republicans have sought policies that divide us, singling out minority communities for harsh treatment.”

DFL chair Ken Martin sent an email to party activists about Dean.

“Today, the Republican majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives invited Bradlee Dean, a controversial Reverend who has essentially advocated for the execution of homosexuals, to deliver the opening prayer for the chamber,” said Martin. “Governor Dayton said it best in response – there is no place for hate in Minnesota and especially not on the House or Senate floor.”

He added, “The fact that this man, who advocates for violence against gay people, was welcomed by the GOP onto the House floor with open arms is just abominable.”

As the Minnesota Independent has reported, Dean has long-running ties with Minnesota Republicans. Politicians, including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, have been part of fundraisers for Dean’s You Can Run But You Cannot Hide; Emmer’s former House campaign donated to the group; and prominent Republicans, including Dan Severson (who recently announced he’ll be running against Amy Klobuchar for Senate) and state Sen. Paul Gazelka, have been guests on his weekly radio show.

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