The director of church outreach for the group backing the marriage amendment apologized Wednesday for connecting tactics of the opposition to Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.

“It was a terrible mistake to even mention Nazism in an attempt to illustrate my point, and I fully understand why many found it to be offensive,” the Rev. Brad Brandon said in a statement. “In no way was I attempting to equate the marriage debate with Nazism and I profoundly apologize to anyone who felt that was my objective.”

Brandon’s statement came as Minnesotans United for All Families, the lead group opposing the measure, brought religious leaders together to demand an apology from the other campaign.

“We are shocked at the misuse of Hitler and the Nazi regime,” said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, from Temple Beth Israel in Minneapolis. “Comparing our deeply held religious beliefs to the genocide committed to our people by Adolf Hitler in Germany and the Nazis is not only hurtful, but it stops any civil discourse engaged in our state.”

Minnesotans United had released video and audio of Brandon at several voter information seminars around the state telling groups that the other side is using techniques similar to Hitler.

“We’re not saying that one side or the other is equal to Adolf Hitler and the atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany,” Brandon said during a presentation in Brainerd that included a huge picture of the German ruler. “What we are simply saying is that when a totalitarian dictator takes place and wants to suppress the voice of a group…. they use certain tactics.”

When first told of the events Monday, Andy Parrish, deputy campaign manager for Minnesota for Marriage, immediately apologized and said that the comments were not the message of the campaign.

Minnesotans United noted, however, that Chuck Darrell, communications director for the other campaign, was at an earlier event in Woodbury and took questions after the Nazi references. The program was virtually unchanged days later in Brainerd.

“My recent public comments that religious liberty is frequently the first casualty of those who seek to impose a political agenda are being taken out of context and used by opponents of marriage to make me, and our campaign to preserve marriage, seem to be extreme,” Brandon said in his apology. “I never stated or meant to imply that those who oppose …. the marriage protection amendment, are somehow equivalent to the Nazis who targeted communities of faith to suppress their voice, often through murder.”