Minnesota speaker of the House, Rep. Kurt Zellers, issued an apology to fellow lawmakers and, in a sense, restarted the session from scratch on Friday, after guest chaplain Bradlee Dean’s invocation questioned President Obama’s Christian faith.
Dean is the founder and executive director of the non-profit ministry, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, and he hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, The Sons of Liberty.
“It’s not about the Baptists, it’s not about the Catholics alone, or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans or the Presbyterians, Evangelicals or any other denomination,” Dean prayed, in part, as reported by KARE Channel 11 in Minneapolis-St. Paul. “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.”
He began the prayer by thanking God for the sacrifices of the U.S. military.
“Father God, I just thank you Father for what you have bestowed upon us,” Dean said. “And through the sacrifice of our brothers and our sisters, Father God, to ratify the Constitution of the United States Father God – the fight, the bloodshed and the sacrifice ...” Dean went on to list a number of wars the United States has fought in. “They died so we could have the freedoms that we have today. And they ratified that Constitution and sacrificed their all for it.” He ended with his allusion to President Obama.
The House has a tradition in which prayers are non-denominational and after Rep. Zellers conferred with Rep. Terry Morrow, they agreed that Dean’s prayer had “no place on the House floor.”
Lawmakers were about to debate a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Once lawmakers learned that Dean has made what they believe to be controversial statements about gay persons, the anger over Dean’s prayer continued to rise.
The House took a recess and Rep. Zellers asked the chief clerk of the House to re-start the session. The clerk banged the gavel again and the regular House chaplain prayed.
Rep. Zellers made it clear where he stood on the matter.
“Earlier today there was a prayer given by a man I personally denounce,” Rep. Zellers said. “The decorum and dignity of this body is my responsibility. I did not live up to that responsibility today. For that, I apologize. This is the people’s House. Each member deserves the dignity and respect of all of us. Members I can only ask for your forgiveness. 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.”
Dean responded on his blog.
“Today I gave a prayer at the opening of the MN House session,” he said. “Little did I know that I was going to be giving the prayer on the same day that they were going to have a vote on the marriage amendment. After 20 minutes, I left the capitol, only to get a phone call to tell me that something unprecedented just took place. Apparently someone was angry about my prayer because I invoked the name of Jesus.
“Before I knew it, instead of the media reporting on it as me standing up for our future generations, all of the sudden I became an anti-gay divisive pastor, when all I did was simply say a prayer encouraging all of us to honor our veterans, uphold the Constitution, and not forget the principles of our forefathers, upon which this nation is established.”
The Minnesota House voted on Saturday in favor of putting the question about whether they should place a ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution up for a vote in 2012.