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Ralph Reed’s Minnesota group hopes to influence state’s marriage amendment debate

The Minnesota Faith and Freedom Coalition (MFFC) is lending its voice to the battle over a constitutional amendment limiting marriage between a man and a woman in Minnesota. The group, founded by former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, has already gotten GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and state Sen. Warren Limmer involved in their efforts on the ground in Minnesota. The group’s staffers have a long history of activism, especially around the issue of same-sex marriage.

MFFC is part of Reed’s national Faith and Freedom Coalition. He describes his group, which backs state and local affiliates around the country, as evolving, a “21st Century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids, married with MoveOn.org, with a sprinkling of the NRA.”

“This is not your daddy’s Christian Coalition,” Reed told US News and World Report in 2009. “It’s got to be more brown, more black, more female, and younger. It’s critical that we open the door wide and let them know if they share our values and believe in the principles of faith and marriage and family, they’re welcome.”

The group will host a policy briefing in October on the Minnesota anti-gay marriage ballot measure, featuring former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and the chief author of the ballot measure, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove.

Since its inception, the group has quickly staffed itself with Republican and conservative leaders. It’s also started organizing Christian conservatives and making friends with tea party groups in the state.

FFC hosted a roundtable of 30 conservative activists in April 2010 that included Michele Bachmann and Sen. Limmer.

A few months later, in August 2010, the group’s registration was accepted by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.

Some of the staff of MFFC have a great deal of political experience, others very little.

Terrie Myers is a classically trained artist. She helped organize pastors and tea partiers in 2010 to get out the vote and attended an October 2010 meeting of the Southwest Metro Tea Party to give a presentation. Myers was a small donor to Emmer ($50) and a slightly larger donor to Bachmann ($500). She’s an organizer for the group.

Carol Schulstad, MFFC’s president, introduced Bachmann at a Faith and Freedom Coalition event in June in Washington, D.C.

“She has been fearless to stop President Obama’s left-wing lies that are destroying America, and she remains fearless in her critics as her critics in the left-wing media attempt to assassinate her character,” she said. “Now, besides fearless, I must make a mention that as she is defending our faith and our freedom and her constituents and the cause for the conservatives of America, she is also serving her husband, her five children and her 23 foster children.”

She added, “And who would have ever thought that she would have carried the issue of traditional marriage to the level that she has today.”

Schulstad was a candidate running against Rep. Betty McCollum in 1998 under the Minnesota Taxpayer Party. Schulstad garnered 2 percent of the vote.

But perhaps the most active of the MFFC officers is Gary Borgendale, the group’s vice president and a longtime proponent of an anti-gay marriage amendment in Minnesota. Borgendale was Local Ministry Director for KKMS, a conservative Christian radio station. Before that, Borgendale was the executive director and lobbyist for Minnesota for Marriage, a group that pushed for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the ballot in 2012.

Borgendale was an alternate delegate for John McCain at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. He says he backed McCain because of his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Before his support for McCain, Borgendale was the chair of Minnesotans for Huckabee and conducted outreach to home-schooling families. He’s also listed as a precinct chair with the Senate District 51 Republicans.

In 2005, Borgendale organized the “Minnesota Pastors’ Summit,” an event that made headlines recently for its connection to Michele Bachmann. Her husband, Marcus Bachmann, gave a presentation called “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda.”

The theme of the 2005 summit was “Equipping Churches to Engage Culture,” and also included controversial author David Barton and Colby May of American Center for Law and Justice, a legal outfit created by Pat Robertson.

“As pastors, you are on the forefront of this cultural conflict. Activist judges, political leaders and secular media are trying to dictate faith’s role in society. However, we can reverse that trend through a unified commitment to biblical principles in our communities,”Borgendale said. “Same-sex marriage, civil or otherwise, does not extend the right to marriage to other individuals, it fundamentally redefines marriage for everyone.”

Beyond marriage, Borgendale has been outspoken against the LGBT community. In a July 2007 interview (MP3) with KKMS (where he would later become an employee), he said, “The homosexual agenda issue is not going away by any means.” He added, “There’s an effort to put this in the public school settings even down to kindergarten. The agenda being pushed whether it be the business community the public schools or even the church.”

He said that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and pedophilia.

“It is a slippery slope because polygamy is now very high on the radar screen. You have what is this show ‘Big Love,’ there was this polygamy rally,” he said. “There’s also moves about lowering the age of consent, there’s different pedophile organizations that are moving forward on that same regard — NAMBLA — it is there so that slippery slope is really coming forth.”

He said that he also opposes any relationship recognition for same-sex couples including civil unions and domestic partnership benefits.

“Civil unions and domestic partnerships starts creating a legal status,” he said. “We want to stay away from anything that creates a legal status. The opposition has tried very hard to create that beachhead by creating the establishment of some relationship that is (sic) recognized.”

He said, instead, that same-sex couples could have access to “a list of 8 to 10 items” such as survivor benefits so long as it was open to everyone including “life-long friends or siblings.”

He was a speaker at several stops on theNational Organization for Marriage’s Summer for Marriage tour in 2010.

“For my family and my children, I had to get involved,” he told a small crowd in St. Cloud. “One person can make a difference. If God is calling you, be involved. Answer the call.”

Also in the MFFC is John Henderson, who joined the group after a long career in business management.

He told MPR in June that the marriage amendment was intended to protect the Christian definition of marriage.

“It’s for the protection of marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition of one man and one woman,” Henderson said. “And there is, quite frankly, the possibility of this law being overturned by judges.”

Henderson explained MFFC’s mission in Minnesota. “Build chapters throughout the state. Recruit members and make certain that the conservative, social-minded individuals fully understand the issues at hand,” he said.

“Our goal is to influence public policy and enact legislation that strengthens families, promotes time-honored values, protects the dignity of life and marriage, lowers the tax burden on small business and families, and requires government to tighten its belt and live within its means.”

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