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Legislative firestorm erupts over Bradlee Dean’s prayer

The conservative minister, who has talked of jailing gay people and even worse, was allowed to give the opening prayer at today’s House session.

A serious fire-and-brimstone storm dropped on the Minnesota House this morning.

Bradlee Dean
Bradlee Dean

Conservative minister Bradlee Dean, who has talked of jailing gay people and even worse, was allowed to give the opening prayer at today’s House session.

This, on a day when a gay marriage amendment was expected to be debated at the Legislature and as those in favor of gay marriage assembled at the Capitol.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers this afternoon wouldn’t disclose if the House will vote on the amendment this session. “We’re not saying yet,” he said. “We’re not sure yet.”

Zellers said the GOP will talk about their options in caucus today.


Dean’s prayer caused outrage. Normally, the opening prayers in the legislative chambers are nonsectarian.

Dean concluded his rambling prayer asserting that President Barack Obama is not a Christian, with these words: “I know this is a non-denominational prayer in this Chamber and it’s not about the Baptists and it’s not about the Catholics alone or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans. Or the Presbyterians, the evangelicals or any other denomination but rather the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus. As every President up until 2008 has acknowledged. And we pray it. In Jesus’ name.”

Rep. Terry Morrow
Rep. Terry Morrow

Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, rose to vigorously object, saying: “Mr. Speaker, I’ve always thought of the house prayer as an opportunity to contemplate together to come together before the heated battle of what can sometimes be partisan politics. It was an expectation, it was a hope that I thought was fulfilled every day I came into this chamber today.

“Within the last hour this hope has been crushed by a single person’s words … I know that others will join me now or in the near future to express their deep concerns, reservations, comments, and suggestions on how we repair the fabric that has been torn today.

“Mr. Speaker, I do have a hope. I have a hope that the members of this chamber will join me, that we will be able to unite in a commitment and an understanding that all Minnesotans regardless of their faith, regardless of their beliefs and regardless of their lifestyle are indeed Minnesotans and deserve this chamber’s respect and this chamber’s commitments.”

Zellers apologized in a statement about an hour later:
 
“I respectfully apologize to all members in the Minnesota House of Representatives and all citizens of this state for today’s morning prayer. As Speaker of the House, I take responsibility for this mistake. I am offended at the presence of Bradlee Dean on the floor of the Minnesota House of Representatives. I denounce him, his actions and his words. He does not represent my values or the values of this state.”

Speaker Zellers
Speaker Zellers

Minutes later, Zellers apologized on the House Floor. Meanwhile, MPR reported that Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer, invited Dean to give the prayer

Two gay lawmakers — Rep. Karen Clark and Sen. Scott Dibble — reacted.

“In my 30 years in the House, I have never seen such a hateful person be allowed to deliver the opening prayer,” Rep. Clark said. “Bradlee Dean has a documented record of hate speech, and has suggested that extremists who call for the execution of American gays are morally justified. The decision by GOP leadership to allow his intolerance, fear and outright bigotry into the ‘people’s house’ is reprehensible. Minnesotans are a peaceful, loving and caring people. It’s this spirit of togetherness and shared hope that the House of Representatives should strive to embody. The Republican leadership should be ashamed of themselves. It reveals the underlying hateful nature of the anti-gay constitutional amendment movement.”
 
Said Dibble: “In this time of divisiveness, it’s disgraceful and appalling to see the Speaker of the House of Representatives  the body that is supposed to represent all Minnesotans  invite hatred into the opening prayer. Instead of providing a message of inclusion and hope, the House began this day with hate and discrimination. Mr. Dean has a long and well-known record of intolerance, something that should have no place in the legislature, let alone in a prayerful blessing. This morning’s action is a sad commentary on House Republican leadership’s apparent ambivalence for supporting the equal rights and beliefs of all Minnesotans.”

Transcript of Dean’s prayer
Here is the entire transcript of Dean’s prayer, as supplied by the DFL Caucus media department:

“When I arrived at the Capitol today I noticed all the writings upon the inside of the walls. On the Supreme Court Chambers you have Moses awaiting the Ten Commandments, God’s divine law. You have George Washington quotes, Thomas Jefferson quotes speaking of unalienable rights given unto us by our creator. And when I looked at that I thought what an awesome building and those in this chamber are very privileged to be here and I’m honored to be here as well … And if I can give a small preface to my prayer so my prayer has meaning. I remember when I was a young man. I had a friend who founded a company in Fridley, Minnesota. This man built this company from the ground up as he blueprinted everything in great detail. He put his sweat, tears, everything into it until he established a great company. Nobody understood what sacrifice he put into his company except those that helped him along. The company grew in such a proportion that he could now sell the company and he did. On the sale of his company the buyers agreed to keep him on to run the company for them and in the process the company sold. And when it was sold the buyers went against the contract and fired the founder. How foolish could they be? They thought once they had control of the company they could run it their own way and still prosper. And they failed miserably. [Excuse me]

“And it sounds much like America today. America has the longest standing Constitution in the history of the world. And might I remind everyone here that we have one Constitution so let us come together and unite ourselves under its directives. Because we all know the problems didn’t come into our country in 1776, they came when we wandered from the founder of the company and tried running it our own way.

“So let us pray.

“Father God I just thank you Father for what you have bestowed upon us and through the sacrifice of our brothers and our sisters. Father God to ratify the Constitution of the United States. Father God, the fight, the bloodshed, and the sacrifice. From World War One to World War Two to Korea, Father. To Korea and Iwo Jima and Vietnam. And Father God, Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think about their sacrifice when I go, Father God, to Arlington Cemetery and I think that’s the reason I that fight. That’s the reason that I stand, that I encourage my brothers to do the same thing. They died so we could have the freedoms that we have today. And they ratified that Constitution and sacrificed their all for it. And I end with this. I know this is a non-denominational prayer in this Chamber and it’s not about the Baptists and it’s not about the Catholics alone or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans. Or the Presbyterians the evangelicals or any other denomination but rather the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus. As every President up until 2008 has acknowledged. And we pray it. In Jesus’ name. “

Rep. Morrow’s response
And here’s a transcript of Rep. Morrow’s full remarks in response:

“Mr. Speaker, I’m trying to take time to be deliberate and to express a deep level of concern of what occurred in this chamber this morning. Mr. Speaker, I will start by acknowledging that you did restart and that you did invite the house Chaplin to speak and I take that as acknowledgment that there is a legitimate cause for deep concern among the members, among the staff, and among the people of Minnesota.
 
“Mr. Speaker, I’ve always thought of the house prayer as an opportunity to contemplate together to come together before the heated battle of what can sometimes be partisan politics. It was an expectation, it was a hope that I thought was fulfilled every day I came into this chamber today. Within the last hour this hope has been crushed by a single person’s words.
 
“Mr. Speaker, I do trust and I do hope that every member of this chamber understands the gravity and the severity of the offense that had been given to many people within this chamber and out. It has been my understanding that part of the justification, part of the explanation for starting our sessions with a prayer was that those prayers would never exclude, never marginalize a Minnesotan on the basis of their faith, on the basis of their beliefs, on the basis of who they are and those expectations have been crushed today.
 
“I know that others will join me now or in the near future to express their deep concerns, reservations, comments, and suggestions on how we repair the fabric that has been torn today. Mr. Speaker I do have a hope. I have a hope that the members of this chamber will join me, that we will be able to unite in a commitment and an understanding that all Minnesotans regardless of their faith, regardless of their beliefs and regardless of their lifestyle are indeed Minnesotans and deserve this chamber’s respect and this chamber’s commitments.
 
“Mr. Speaker I could yell. Mr. Speaker I could bang the table in anger right now, but I don’t think that would be fruitful. Some of you who are standing near me can see I’m shaking right now because I’m mad. I thank you for restarting, I thank you for listening, I thank you all as we move forward and renew a commitment that this cannot happen again.”