Rum, sodomy & the lash: Will Gruenhagen tell HIV-prevention advocates to shape up or ship out?


Bluestem examined Glenn Gruenhagen’s peculiar views on alcohol last week; perhaps a turn toward his attitude toward sexual behavior is in order. New Year’s and those stroke-of-midnight kisses are coming up, after all, and Gruenhagen does have a seat on a committee that will make policy about health care.

Back in 2007, my local newspaper published Gruenhagen’s cheerful Christmas epistle online on Christmas Eve. In The Bible: our source of civil and religious rights, the Glencoe insurance agent, school board member and now newly minted state representative wrote:

When newly elected U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison insisted on using the Koran (Qur’an) at his oath of office, many citizens raised concerns about the symbolism of that event. . . . . I believe we see the disturbing and subtle influence of using the Koran to replace the Bible as our source of “civil and religious liberties.”

. . .Many have great concern for our country as we have drifted from the Judeo-Christian principles which gave us our liberties and freedoms, into the religion of atheism, such as the belief in abortion, pornography, sodomy as an orientation, evolution, etc. The corruption of atheistic values in our schools and government institutions leaves open the door for a foreign religious value system to influence our country’s culture. [emphasis added]

Many patriotic Americans are concerned that our freedoms and liberties will be lost with the censorship and removal of our Creator who authored our liberty and freedoms. Is it important for publicly elected officials to place their hand on the Bible during their oath of office in spite of the American Civil Liberties Union? I’ll let you decide.

Putting aside Gruenhagen’s tender concern for both Congressman Ellison’s soul and reading material, the passage is troubling for other reasons that may be problematic given Gruenhagen’s seat on the Heath and Human Services Reform committee.

First, Gruenhagen sets his course clearly toward that country Christian Reconstructionist (and fellow traveler) David Barton believes in so strongly that the Texan was moved to promote half-truths and fabricate quotes demonstrating that the Founding Fathers sought to establish a Christian theocracy rather than that nation suggested by the Constitution itself.

On March 6, 2001, Gruenhagen testified before the Minnesota House Education Policy committee along with Barton about a bill that would prevent “censorship” of American religious history and “patriotism.” At 1:06:50 (link opens in media player) watch Gruenhagen carry on. (Viewed now in 2010, the statements about lack of patriotism among young Minnesotans are painful for me–as I know so many young people who stepped up to the plate to serve after 9/11, including several now in uniform. How embarassing).

Gruenhagen has long taken the dim view of diversity, tolerance and multicultural education that he shares with the committee and the readers of the Hutchinson Leader. But “sodomy” and “sodomy as an orientation” hold a special place in his personal pantheon of cultural corruption.

Take the October 18, 1993 Star Tribune article by Jeremy Iggers, Gay rights: A moral issue or a civil rights question? (Nexis only), in which Gruenhagen makes a star appearance:

Like many other communities, Hutchinson may still be wrestling with issues of tolerance. But in the smaller and more intimate setting of the library meeting room, men and women with sharply divided views found that, yes, they all could all get along. The key seemed to be respect, and a willingness to listen.

 This willingness was put to the test when Glenn Gruenhagen, an insurance agency manager from Glencoe, explained his views on homosexuality.

“Sodomy – whether practiced between a man and a woman or two men – is wrong,” Gruenhagen told the largely skeptical audience. “It’s a medically proven unhealthy lifestyle. When you know the medical facts about sodomy, you would not practice it. It’s wrong. That’s why we have a state law against the practice of sodomy.”

Although most of the other participants disagreed with Gruenhagen, he received a respectful hearing. And Gruenhagen, for his part, made efforts to meet his audience halfway: Although he spoke from deep religious conviction, he made careful efforts to avoid relying on religious arguments. Instead, he based his arguments on medicine and science.

Ah, mouth and butt sex. What else would induce a global warming denier and creationist to give “medicine and science” such an enthusiastic reach around?

Minnesota’s sodomy law, which criminialized oral and anal sex for all, was struck down by a district court in 2001, though flaming homophobe Bradlee Dean still runs around this part of Minnesota carrying about how the practices are illegal. The U.S Supreme Court rendered any action on the 2001 ruling a dead letter with the 2003 landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas.

Losing legal claim to his bigotry hasn’t stopped Gruenhagen’s crusade against “sodomy as an orientation.” His 2003 resolution against teaching “sodomy as an orientation” failed to move forward at that year’s Minnesota School Board Association Delegate Assembly. The McLeod County Chronicle published an LTE, Keeping the main thing, the main thing, that same year. Gruenhagen wrote:

The primary purpose of my letters to the editor has been to alert the public to the danger of the homosexual agenda, which is the full acceptance and legitimizing of their lifestyle in every aspect of our society. One of their first objectives is to mandate the teaching of this very destructive behavior as normal to the children in our public schools and eventually in all schools.

We, as citizens, need to encourage our social workers, public health nurses, medical professionals, pastors, lawyers and political leaders in our community and state, to oppose this agenda and protect our children from the destructive and confusing influence of homosexuality.

It comes down to this: If you don’t believe that we should be teaching sodomy as a normal behavior to our children, it is time to stand up and say something publicly and voice your dissent before the legal door is closed through hate crimes legislation. . . .

Apparently, this was a cherished Gruenhagen obsession while on the school board–and his fellow board members grew weary of it.  In September 2010, a HD 25A resident told readers of the Le Sueur News Herald in a letter, Gruenhagen deserves a closer look:

I offer as evidence a letter written by the other five members of the GSL School Board that appeared in the Glencoe newspaper (The McLeod County Chronicle). This is just an excerpt, but I invite you to read the whole letter.

“With regularity Mr. Gruenhagen inserts his own biases into school board meetings with not the least provocation. Abortion, homosexuality, safe sex, evolution and countless other topics that do not appear on the school board’s agenda are brought to the fore, repeatedly, and forced onto unsuspecting school board members, administrators and individuals in the viewing audience. To do so is rude, a violation of school board decorum, a waste of attendees’ time and a disruption in the flow of otherwise quality public meetings. He ignores the expert advice of the superintendent of schools, two architectural firms, a construction management firm … Incredible!”

Jodi Braband,
Doug Grams,
Loren Mathews,
Nancy Morris,
Mark Rudy
Glencoe-Silver Lake
School Board

Gruenhagen’s fellow board members published the letter in 2005. The sparring itself became local news; witness the article, Gruenhagen, board majority tangle over letters:

Worner said he believes Gruenhagen or any board member has the right to sign letters to the editor. But he said Gruenhagen has been asked by the other five board members, on several occasions, not to sign it as a school board member. He said that implies he is speaking for the entire school board.

“Don’t you care that it bothers us?” board member Nancy Morris snapped.

“Yes, I do,” Gruenhagen said.  

Worner said the issue is that Gruenhagen often brings in other matters not pertaining to the subject being discussed, like abortion, homosexuality and others.[emphasis added]

“We’re (the entire board) perceived as being painted with the same brush,” Worner said.

In 2009, Gruenhagen wrote in Thoughts on abortion, political money laundering:

The following are a few examples of the liberal political positions that are not only irrational but just plain ignorant and stupid: . . .

  • Liberals support and want to mandate teaching sexual perversions, such as sodomy and promiscuity, to our children in public schools and can’t understand why sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have grown exponentially in the last 35 years.

Ah yes, “perversions.”

All of Gruenhagen’s rantings wouldn’t much matter, however annoying and time consuming they are, were he not to begin his service in a  committee and a body that makes decisions about how public dollars are spent on HIV and STD prevention and treatment and other health care related to human sexuality. Will he exert his anti-gay and anti-sex agenda in St. Paul?

Will his attitudes toward sex–shaped mostly by religious notions–be as welcomed in 2011 as his anti-nonsexism, anti-diversity and anti-tolerance views were received by Minnesota House members in 2001?