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Clerical collar on legislative mailing raises holy heck

Much ado has erupted over a political flier mailed out in Senate District 40 (parts of Bloomington and Burnsville) that shows a man in a clerical collar sporting a button that says: "Ignore the poor."

It was sent by the DFL State Central Committee, in support of incumbent DFL Sen. John Doll of Burnsville. The ad attacks Doll's Republican opponent, Dan Hall, a non-denominational minister who serves as a volunteer police and fire department chaplain in Burnsville. The ad implies that Hall is more committed to serving the Republican Party than serving the poor.

But the representation of the Roman collar — usually worn by Catholic priests, and occasionally by clergy of other denominations, but not Hall — led to a dustup.

Some apparently took the ad as an affront to the Catholic Church by the DFL Party and much blogging and tweeting ensued. Two Republican lawmakers today called on Mark Dayton, the DFL candidate for governor, to denounce the flier.

Dayton said he knew nothing of the ad, and said the effort to link it to him was desperate.

A Catholic news network, EWTN, has a story about the flier today, noting it:

"...raised concerns of anti-Catholicism. However, the ad in fact targeted a non-denominational Protestant lay minister who is running for the state legislature"

Says the story:

Many Catholic observers took the image to be an attack on the Minnesota Catholic bishops, who with the help of an independent donor have launched a large-scale campaign to educate Catholics on the nature of marriage.

The bishops’ critics, especially homosexual activists, have argued that the money used for the campaign should have been spent on the poor.

However, the controversial “Ignore the Poor” clergyman’s image was simply one side of a flyer from the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee attacking Republican Dan Hall, a non-denominational Protestant running in Minnesota Senate District 40.

In an interview with EWTN, Hall said: “I’ve never worn a collar. It’s a slam on me, but they’re using you guys and it’s sad.”

Hall also responded to the ad's criticism that he didn't speak out against budget cuts that many fell hurt the poor:

“The thing is, I’m a chaplain to the capitol,” he commented. “That’s not someone who would stand up and start talking about what governor does or doesn’t do.”

“I grew up in the inner city projects in Minneapolis. I’ve always been helping the poor. I ran a food shelter for 10 years,” he continued, calling the flyers “despicable” and “out of line.”

“For any churchgoing people, why mock our faith?” he asked.

ETWN contacted Donald McFarland, a communications official with the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee, who responded:

“I understand that some Republican bloggers have taken one image from the first piece, and claimed that the mail is somehow anti-Catholic. But the text explicitly criticizes Preacher Hall for distancing himself from policy views that have been taken by the Catholic Archdiocese, by the Lutheran Synod, and other leaders in Minnesota’s faith community.

“Dan Hall is willing to enlist God and religion in his campaign when it helps him — but in fact, his views hurt the poorest and sickest among us, and this mailing holds him accountable for those views."

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Comments (11)

Since the Roman collar imagery used in the mailer has no relation to Dan Hall's ministry, the mailer is more nonsensical than offensive.

What is offensive is that the DFL would be up in arms if anyone mentioned Keith Ellison's relationship with CAIR, which has extensive ties to radical Islamic groups, because of Ellison's religion. Similarly, I bet they'd be pretty miffed if anyone doubted President Obama's Christianity.

Yet, the DFL is ok with:

a) using a Republican candidate's religion to attack him; and

b) sending out a mailer that slanders the Lutheran, Episcopalian, or Catholic faith (the only three major denominations I can think of that wear a Roman collar), or all three, with negative and blatantly false imagery that is unrelated to a non-denominational minister running for office.

As a Catholic, I'm used to hearing reasoned, and deserved, criticism from people concerned about the abuses that my clergy have been involved in, as well as the all purpose hatred leftists heap upon religion in general.

Therefore, I wasn't too upset with this mailing at first; but then I wasn't aware of Dan Hall's position as a lay minister.

Now, fully apprised, and in light of it, I reaslize that this mailing implied a much nastier intent than I realized.

But then again, when it comes to people of faith, there isn't a bar so low the left won't stoop, so I'm not surprised.

The Religious Right uses politics to protect and promote its religion; The Progressive left uses religion to justify and promote its politics. Neither is on the side of the angels.

What ever happened to the separation of church and state? Or did Christine O'Donnell succeed in getting that concept removed from the Constitution?

"Or did Christine O'Donnell succeed in getting that concept removed from the Constitution?"

*facepalm*

The use of the "clerical collar" in this mailing was clearly meant to be used as the quickest visible reminder to people that Mr. Doll claims himself as a member of the clergy.

And to point out that his conservative attitudes seem out of character with what most people think of when they think of clergy. This only works because we generally identify members of the clergy as those holding exactly the opposite of Mr. Doll's attitudes toward the poor.

As to who wears the collar, at least out here, in West Central Minnesota, many members of the clergy of various denominations (especially Lutherans) wear clerical collars, especially when doing nursing home and hospital visits (especially female clergy) in order to be more easily and readily recognized as clergy by church members who may be mentally confused but who recognize someone wearing a "collar" as their pastor.

Clearly our Republican friends are terrified that, at least for some voters, the contrast between Mr. Doll's expressed ideas and his roll as clergy are in such marked contrast as to make him unworthy of their trust.

So they have invented an attack on the Catholic church, an attack clearly not in evidence, to distract people from the real issues involved in the fact that their candidate claims the name of Christ but espouses ideas which are far more in step with the Biblical chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.

"the all purpose hatred leftists heap upon religion in general"

Leftists hold no monopoly on heaping hatred upon religion. As John Reynolds notes, above, the right is more than willing to slander Muslims. Personally, having been raised Catholic, I've been subjected to religious bigotry, from evangelical 'christians'. Mr Swift, have you heard the phrase 'the cult of mary'? In my experience, a not insignificant number of evangelicals think of Catholicism as such. They aren't very tolerant of Mormons either. No, this outrage about 'leftist' intolerance for religion ignores the right's willingness to do the same.

The problem with the ad isn’t that it raises questions about religion and politics. It’s that it raises those questions stupidly.

'Everybody should believe in something - I believe I'll have another drink.'
- W. C. Fields

On a separate note, I would love it if countries took a good hard look at the benefits they give to Organized Religion and started taxing them as any other business.

There are more ads than this one. One of the other ads shows an altar with a statue of St. Anthony of Padua and banners saying "Vote" hanging on either side. Statues of St. Anthony of Padua cannot be confused with other religions.

I'll give the DFL that this wasn't intentional. It was just plain stupid. Research should have been done before they tried this.

The button that says "Ignore the Poor" on the coat of the clergyman is a direct reference to the criticism that Archbishop Nienstedt received when the Marriage DVDs were mailed to Catholic Minnesotans.

Most of the objectors said in their comments that the [donated] money should have been spent on the poor.

The DFL leadership is violently opposed to the Catholic Church's positions on homosexual marriage and abortion. They want to control the legislature and the governor's office so they can pass their legislation regarding those two issues.

So they will stoop to any means to get their way.

Hot rumor has it that a certain employee of the DFL might be looking for work in a week or so.

Maybe more than one becasue people had to approve the three ads. There were three, you know.

Why would the DFL run ads against the Catholic Church when the candidate those ads are aimed at is a non-Catholic (protestant) member of the clergy?

It may very well be that the image with the stained glass above the side altar would be immediately recognizable to Catholics as what it is, but the vast majority of us protestants would only see an altar with a stained glass window above it - in other words a garden variety shot of the interior of an anonymous church somewhere.

It sounds to me as if enough of our Catholic friends are uncomfortable with what's happening in the Pope's church to have a very large chip on their shoulders. The last time I checked, our Catholic friends had complete freedom of speech in this nation and the freedom to practice their faith however they see fit.

If they feel as if they need to be running scared of persecution from the DFL (or anyone else for that matter), it's really just themselves, their own shadows, and the skeletons in their own closets - all the things they can't or won't face within themselves (and their church) - that they're projecting outward and claiming to fear in those they accuse of persecuting them.