Several Jewish and Christian leaders intensified criticism of the group opposed to same-sex marriage Friday for using Nazi references in their effort.
“It’s shocking and appalling and deeply unMinnesotan,” said Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, with Shir Tikvah in south Minneapolis. He accused Minnesota for Marriage of using the Bible and Torah and other religious texts to espouse their views against homosexuality.“When did you decide to use a sacred text as a weapon of mass destruction?”
A dozen religious leaders gathered at Shir Tikvah to ask the group trying to block same-sex marriage in the state to apologize and withdraw material that accused same-sex marriage advocates of using the propaganda techniques similar to Nazis during the holocaust. The group was most critical of Minnesota for Marriage for describing the issue as a diversion and a “smoke screen,” which they saw as a thinly-veiled reference to the gas chambers used in Nazi Germany.
Autumn Leva, a spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, said the statements in question came from a separate, affiliate group.
"Minnesota for Marriage regrets that statements considered by many to be offensive appeared on the website of a separate organization, Minnesota Pastors for Marriage," the statement read. "The aim of Minnesota for Marriage has always been to promote a civil and respectful debate about the nature of marriage."
That's a marked change from the day before when the group said Minnesotans United, which is pushing to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, was raising the issue in a "desperate attempt" to divert people from the fact that most Minnesotans don’t want to legalize gay marriage.
A link to the pastors' group remained atop Minnesota for Marriage's website Friday afternoon.
Minnesota for Marriage's affiliate is urging pastors to preach against same-sex marriage this weekend. The group prepared a “sermon starter” help religious leaders touch on key arguments against same-sex marriage.
The material tries to debunk a body of medical and scientific research that shows gay and lesbian people are born that way.
“They essentially practice Joseph Goebel's Nazi philosophy of propaganda, which is basically this: Tell a lie long enough and loud enough and eventually most mindless Americans will believe it," the material reads. "Hear this: God did not make anyone homosexual.”
This is the second time in less than a year that Minnesota for Marriage has been tagged with criticism for Nazi references.
In October, the Rev. Brad Brandon, a religious outreach staffer for Minnesota for Marriage, compared rivals’ efforts on the marriage amendment to the Nazi regime.
At the time, Minnesota for Marriage representatives quickly apologized and said that Brandon’s statements did not reflect the group's beliefs.
“We are troubled by the fact that this is the second time in less than six months that Minnesotans for Marriage has made reckless and historically inaccurate comparisons between Nazi Germany,” said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. “Such analogies are almost always inappropriate and are offensive to not only the Jewish community, but also the many gay people who were targeted and murdered by the Nazi regime.”
Friday night, the Minnesota Family Council issued a statement taking blame for the sermons that started the controversy.
Here is the statement:
Minnesota Family Council is responsible for the content of the Minnesota Pastors for Marriage website. We regret that a sermon and other materials received from another organization and posted to the Minnesota Pastors for Marriage website were not properly reviewed. Some of the views reflected in those documents do not reflect those of Minnesota Family Council, and they have been removed from the website.
We further regret that the posting of these documents, and the unauthorized use of the Minnesota for Marriage logo in some of them, have caused difficulties for the Minnesota for Marriage staff, coalition, and board, who had no knowledge that these documents were being posted or are in any way responsible for their content. We regret any harm this has caused, and wish to clarify that Minnesota for Marriage should not be connected to the content of the documents in question.
Minnesota Pastors for Marriage is a coalition of pastors and groups that share one thing in common – the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman and that the Minnesota Legislature should not legalize same-sex marriage. Minnesota Pastors for Marriage is also dedicated to protecting the freedom to preach the teachings contained in the Bible regarding marriage.
“This attack by Minnesotans United on marriage has very little to do with an ill-advised quotation but rather the continued assault on the religious liberties of pastors to proclaim the full counsel of God about marriage in their pulpits,” said Pastor Jeff Evans of Minnesota Pastors for Marriage. “Pastors need not apologize about passages in the Bible that some find offensive. On the contrary, pastors answer to their heavenly Father as to whether they speak and teach His Word to a world that needs to hear His good news. As we celebrate Holy Week, we remember the fact that Jesus Himself was mocked, persecuted, and put on the cross in the public square for an "unpopular" message. In reality, His message, ministry, and sacrifice are the words of life that all need to hear," he concluded.