Have you seen the latest ad campaign on the proposed amendment to Minnesota’s constitution banning same-sex marriage?
No, not the TV ads the vote-yes and vote-no campaigns have spent millions on, in an attempt to get their messages into your living room. I’m talking about the plain black boxes running in a number of community newspapers in Twin Cities suburbs and Greater Minnesota enumerating reasons to vote in favor of the amendment.
I hadn’t seen them, either, until a reader sent me a copy of one that ran in the Savage Pacer Oct. 13 enumerating “common sense” arguments for voting yes. The reader who sent the clip had done more than a little Googling to try to figure out who had placed the ad, to no avail. Perhaps a “professional journalist” could figure it out?
Alas, unless a devoted MinnPost member wants to make a largish donation so we can open a Bismarck bureau (and fund the 4,000 or so things ahead of that on our wish-list) this one may go into the category of campaign oddities that will never be fully explained.
“Marriage has to do with sexual expression and when sexual expression is between a faithful husband and a faithful wife, diseases will not filter into society,” the ad explains. “We all need to recognize our fear of not being politically correct and exercise our freedom of speech and expression to inform youth about the dangers of same-gender sexual expression,” it continues, directing readers to a YouTube video, “Shocking 2010 [Centers for Disease Control] Update about Homosexuality, HIV and AIDS.”
The link leads not to footage of epidemiologists or public-health officials talking, but of two animated bear-like creatures standing in a cartoon barnyard. In a robot voice, the first, dressed in a striped shirt and shorts, says that he’s glad to have run into the other one.
“Since we last spoke and you told me you had same-sex attractions for men and you are struggling to accept that you are homosexual or possibly to go to reparative therapy and work through those issues, there has been a major new development,” he says, adding that the CDC has announced that one in five gay or bisexual men is HIV positive.
“How can that be?” his rainbow-striped friend reacts in horror. By the end, the maybe-gay bear is reconsidering, and questioning why no one warned him. (The CDC did indeed report this infection rate, but there’s a lot of associated statistical fine print the animated bears don’t delve into.)
The video’s provenance is as shrouded in mystery as the identity of the person or group who bought the print ads, identified at the bottom of each as, “Sponsored by Concern for Children, P.O. Box 115, 200 Margaret St., Almont, N.D., 58520.”
There is no group by the name Concern for Children registered with the Minnesota Board of Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure, or with the North Dakota Secretary of State. There is a group by that name registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c (3) nonprofit, but it is an adoption agency in Ohio.
Almont, population 122 as of the 2010 census, is a wide spot in the road some 30 miles west of Bismarck. County tax rolls show no taxable structure at 200 Margaret St. The closest Google images are of the intersection at 300 Margaret St., where there is a vacant lot and what appears to be a tiny white church so quaint it could be used as a set in a “Little House on the Prairie” remake, quite likely St. Mary Queen of Peace.
Several online rosters of churches list 200 Margaret St. as the address of a Wesleyan Church, but the associated phone number has been disconnected. The staff at the protestant church’s Indiana headquarters identified three North Dakota churches but could not find any record of an Almont congregation.
Another ad placed by the mystery advertiser, running on news sites throughout the Iron Range, and sites like jordannews.com is headlined, “Martin Luther would want you to vote yes on the marriage amendment.” “The leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) have, and continue to willfully and wantonly misrepresent Martin Luther in thought, word and deed as they silence opposition with various bullying approaches that supposedly represent love.”
An ad placed in the Shakopee News Oct. 4 also takes on ELCA, depicting it as having strayed from Lutheranism’s core beliefs. It’s entitled, “Marriage = One Man + One Woman = Vote Yes!”
In addition to communities throughout Minnesota, Concern for Children has advertised in Washington state, where voters also face a gay-marriage-related referendum.