A prayer at Friday’s session of the Minnesota House given by anti-gay preacher Bradlee Dean erupted a firestorm of criticism among DFL legislators and some in the GOP. Dean, whose fiery brand of anti-LGBT preaching riled opponents of GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer last fall, led the House in prayer, asserting that President Obama was not a Christian. Republican leadership, sensing controversy, asked the official House chaplain to conduct an unusual second prayer. Minnesota’s LGBT legislators said Dean’s anti-gay preaching “reveals the underlying hateful nature of the anti-gay constitutional amendment movement.”
In his prayer, Dean said, “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.”
According to Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio, Dean was invited to give the prayer at the request of Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer.
Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, gave an impassioned speech on the House floor denouncing the prayer.
The controversial prayer did not mention LGBT Minnesotans, gay marriage or the pending amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, but DFLers and progressives seized on Dean’s past statements about the LGBT community.
Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, one of the longest-serving LGBT elected officials in the country, and Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, that chamber’s only LGBT member, released a statement denouncing the decision to allow Dean to lead the prayer.
“In my 30 years in the House, I have never seen such a hateful person be allowed to deliver the opening prayer,” 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.”
Dibble questioned the timing of allowing Dean to lead the prayer.
“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,” Sen. Dibble, a former House member, said. “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.”
Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, called it the “most offensive ‘prayer’ ever,” and that it’s “never happened before.”
The Woodbury Bulletin reports that Rep. Greg Davids, R-Presto, leaned over and told a colleague during Dean’s prayer, “that is going to leave a mark.”
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, took to the House floor to apologize for the prayer saying, “That type of person will never ever be allowed on this House floor again as long as I have the honor of serving as speaker.”
Zellers also released a statement on the matter, saying, “I respectfully apologize to all members in the MN House and all citizens of this state for today’s morning prayer. As Speaker, I take responsibility for this mistake. I am offended at the presence of Bradlee Dean on the floor of the MN House. I denounce him, his actions and his words. He does not represent my values or the values of this state.”
Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, the chief author of the bill to codify an anti-gay marriage law in the Minnesota Constitution, said, “I absolutely repudiate the man who spoke at the start of session and his message of hate. Respect and decency must rule!”
Bradlee Dean is no stranger to courting political controversy. His past statement, made on his radio program, that Muslim countries that execute gays and lesbians are more moral than American Christians was highlighted by detractors of GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer last fall after it was revealed that Emmer had donated to the ministry.
Dean’s website says he has hosted several notable Republicans on his radio show, the same show he frequently calls for the incarceration of gays and lesbians, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, U.S. Senate candidate Dan Severson, State Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, State Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has also raised funds for Dean’s group, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, on numerous occasions.