MINNEAPOLIS -- Backers of the Marriage Amendment have asked a Hastings ministers to drop references to Adolph Hitler from presentations he makes around the state in support of the measure.
Pastor Brad Brandon is the church outreach director for Minnesotans for Marriage, the campaign supporting the amendment. If approved by voters, Minnesota's existing ban on gay marriage will be placed in the state constitution.
Branson's Power Point presentation includes an image of Hitler, and he compares what the Nazi dictator did to European Jews with what happens to Christians in states that approve gay marriage.
"We see that Adolph Hitler used a specific group of tactics," Brandon told a group in Brainerd last week.
"We see he removed fundamental rights from a group of people in Nazi Germany. He stopped Jewish people from speaking out in public. He silenced them."
Brandon's presentation was taped by a citizen and turned over to Minnesotans United for All Families, the group running the campaign to defeat the amendment.
"Making a comparison between that and the deplorable actions of Hitler and the Third Reich, the Nazis, that is just outrageous and it's offensive and they need to apologize," Pastor Grant Stevensen told KARE.
Stevensen is an Evangelical Lutheran minister who heads the faith outreach for Minnesotans United for All Families.
"Everybody knows it's already against the law for people who gay and lesbian to marry, but this would permanently put it in the constitution," Stevensen said.
"That is all we are voting on. To say it's about something else is misinformation."
Autumn Leva, a spokesperson for Minnesotans for Marriage, said that the Hitler references were never part of the messaging developed and approved by her campaign.
"Pastor Brandon's job is to connect with churches and be an outreach director in that area," Leva said.
"And we were not aware that he was drawing the comparison that he did."
On the Brainerd tape several audience members openly object to Brandon's use of Hitler's image, and his explanation that the Nazi regime suppressed the civil rights of Jews.
"Suppressed?" one unidentified woman is heard saying.
"He murdered them. That was no suppression. He murdered them!"
Brandon replied, "Correct, he did murder them. But in order to murder them he suppressed their rights."
Hitler's regime murdered millions of Jews and other so-called "undesirables" including gays and persons with disabilities.
He went on to explain he wasn't comparing gay rights activists with Nazi's, merely pointing out an instance in history to individual rights inside a totalitarian system.
The remainder of his presentation described of "religious suppression" in other states that have legalized gay marriage.
The examples Brandon cited included a photographer who was sued for refusing to take photos of a gay wedding, and a farmer who was fined for refusing to allow a lesbian couple to hold a marriage ceremony on his property.
"His point is still valid, that religious liberties are impacted," Autumn Leva said. "But, of course, the analogy to Nazi Germany and Adolph Hitler is one that does not align with our messaging and he has since removed it."
Volunteers with Minnesotans United for All Families, the opposition campaign, documented the same presentation at previous meetings in Woodbury and Bemidji prior to taping Brandon in Brainerd.
They say another paid staff member of Minnesotans for Marriage introduced Brandon at one of the meetings, and shouldn't acted sooner to drop the Hitler references.
If voters reject the amendment in November gay marriage will still be illegal in Minnesota, in the sense that those marriages aren't recognized by government here. But the courts or a future legislature may remove that ban in the future, which is why amendment backers have adopted a "what-if" line of rhetoric.
Pastor Stevensen rejected the notion that allowing gay marriage threatens the religious freedom of people who oppose gay marriage.
"By putting this in the constitution you're asking the government to favor one religious viewpoint over another," he remarked.
"The people don't need the government to decide which theological point of view trumps the other. Minnesota should be a place for every theological point of view."
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