Democrats in Minnesota want to defeat an evangelical preacher, Dan Hall, who is running for the state senate there. So they sent out a mailer with this stunning image:
It’s been subsequently attacked as being “anti-Catholic” at a time when the Catholic Church, in the person of Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, especially, has been a forceful and clear voice in defense of marriage.
Minnesota Democrats claim innocence in regard to any intended connection with the marriage debate or even the Catholic Church, though. Despite the Roman collar. Donald McFarland, communications director for the Minnesota DFL Party, tells me:
The ad is part of a two-piece mailing that highlights and criticizes the policy views of Dan Hall, a preacher who is the Republican candidate for the Minnesota Senate. I enclose both sides of both pieces. I understand that some Republican bloggers have taken one image from the first piece, and claimed that the mail is somehow anti-Catholic. But the text explicitly criticizes Preacher Hall for distancing himself from policy views that have been taken by the Catholic Archdiocese, by the Lutheran Synod, and other leaders in Minnesota’s faith community. Dan Hall is willing to enlist God and religion in his campaign when it helps him — but in fact, his views hurt the poorest and sickest among us, and this mailing holds him accountable for those views.
On the anti-Catholic charge, McFarland says: “As far as I know, there are clergy members of other faiths that wear collars.” And adds: “It is blatantly clear that they are about Dan Hall and his stance against health care for the poor.”
Alex Conant, spokesman for Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC, responds to the mailing with the observation that “Minnesota Democrats know they’re about to lose — and lose badly — but that’s no excuse for this sort of partisan and misleading mudslinging.”
Mark Drake, communications director for the Republican Party of Minnesota, meanwhile, blasts the mailer: “The DFL Party’s deeply offensive anti-Catholic mailing has absolutely no place in our state. It is an affront and is completely unacceptable.”
I think it’s safe to say it’s unholy politics. That’s a bipartisan problem for sure. But there is reason for bipartisan, ecumenical offense here. It’s an insult to suggest there isn’t some convenient anti-Catholicism here. But more so, it’s an insult to intelligent debate. Tim Pawlenty doesn’t “Ignore the Poor,” and I don’t know many men of the cloth who do either.
The Democratic party in Minnesota disagrees with cuts the governor made and this candidate won’t throw under the bus (to use the most overused phrase in politics). Democrats can easily make that point without the use and abuse of clerics.
UPDATE: Calls to DNC chairman Tim Kaine encouraged.