With just days left in the legislative session and tensions running high over the budget and a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a divisive pastor gave a controversial opening prayer on the House floor Friday.
Bradlee Dean, of the Old Path Church in Minneapolis, also runs a rock gospel ministry and has been openly hostile towards gay marriage. In his prayer, he questioned President Barack Obama‘s faith and repeatedly brought up the constitution. He gave the speech as protesters shouted outside the chamber about a proposed constitutional amendment to solidify a gay marriage ban already in statute, which could be brought up on the House floor today.
“I know this is a non-denominational prayer in this Chamber and it’s not about the Baptists and it’s not about the Catholics alone or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans, or the Presbyterians the evangelicals or any other denomination, but rather the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus, as every President up until 2008 has acknowledged,” Dean said to the chamber. “America has the longest standing constitution in the history of the world, and might I remind all of us here that we have one constitution, so let us come together and unite ourselves under its directives, because we all know the problems didn’t come into our country in 1776, they came when we wandered from the founder of the company and tried running it our own way.”
After a considerably long pause following the prayer, House Speaker Kurt Zellers restarted the session with the House chaplain and a new prayer. DFL Rep. Terry Morrow, visibly upset, stood and said his “expectations have been crushed.”
“Mr. Speaker I will start by acknowledging that you did restart, and you did invite the House chaplain to speak. I take that as an acknowledgment that there is legitimate cause for deep concern,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the House prayer as an opportunity to contemplate together, to come together. … It was an expectation, it was a hope that I thought was fulfilled every day before I came to this chamber today.”
“This cannot happen again,” he said.
Following Morrow’s statement, the House went into recess. House chaplains are invited by the members. It’s unclear who invited Dean to speak on the chamber floor.
Zellers subsequently released a statement apologizing for the prayer: “I respectfully apologize to all members in the Minnesota House of Representatives and all citizens of this state for today’s morning prayer. As Speaker of the House, I take responsibility for this mistake. I am offended at the presence of Bradlee Dean on the floor of the Minnesota House of Representatives. I denounce him, his actions and his words. He does not represent my values or the values of this state.”