While Archbishop Nienstedt and the Catholic Church are the principal funders of the Vote Yes campaign to limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota, we know other denominations are happy to follow his lead, insisting on putting their particular reading of Scripture and feelings about same-sex marriage into our State’s Constitution.
We also know from past successful efforts to pass similar amendments that our opponents use a deliberate strategy of creating fear among parents about what their kids will learn in school if the amendment doesn’t pass. They prey on parent’s fears that kids will learn about difficult topics in school rather than in the home, that they won’t be able to control how their children learn values.
So it would seem a little hypocritical of a Vote Yes campaign to move a political message through four year-olds, don’t you think? Well that seems to be exactly what is happening in at least one Minnesota pre-school.
On Facebook this morning, I saw a beautiful letter written by Jenny, a mother angry that her four year-old son was sent home from pre-school with what is essentially campaign material for the effort to pass an amendment to Minnesota’s Constitution to limit the freedom to marry. Jenny’s facebook post, reprinted here with her permission, read:
My 4 year-old son came home from preschool with a ‘Vote Yes’ letter in his backpack. This was my response to this horrifying letter.
Dear Pastor [redacted]
I am writing this letter to you to inform you why I will be removing my child, _____, from your church’s preschool. I was shocked and appalled that you used my 4-year old’s backpack to send a message home defending the Minnesota Marriage amendment, and I cannot justify financially contributing to a community that is going to use that money against people I love and people my son loves. You see, Pastor ___, my 4-year old is loved and cherished by his two lesbian aunts that have known him and supported him since his birth. My sister and her partner have been in a committed relationship for over 12 years, and ____ will have the wonderful opportunity to support them at their wedding next October.
I am aware that you are well within your rights to promote this teaching about marriage, just like the vast majority of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues in Minnesota are well within their rights to promote inclusivity, embrace God’s diverse creation, and support loving and committed couples by working to defeat this marriage amendment. But you need to know that no matter how many letters you write you will never be able to convince my son that his aunts and their future children are not a real family, for his experience contradicts everything that you wrote in your letter.
Your letter was offensive to an entire group of people that are not seeking to change marriage, they are seeking to join marriage—the lifelong commitment that strengthens all societies. Not only was your letter offensive, but it severely lacked any coherent argument. Claiming to not tell people how to vote and then claiming to simply present God’s view on the matter is lazy rhetoric that does not persuade thinking people. Your selective inattention to the biblical text was frightening. If we are going to talk about the biblical view(s) of marriage, then at least be honest and address polygamy, Levirate marriage, Deuteronomic law of the captive bride, bride prices, dowries, etc. Certainly using a passage about outlawing divorce (Matt 19) and claiming that it is evidence that God does not support same-sex marriage is disingenuous at best and insulting at worst. Did you really think that no one would look it up? But even more than all of this, using the backpacks of 4-year olds to spread your personal, unsophisticated, and selective interpretation of the Bible, in a vain attempt to amend the constitution to exclude human beings who are created in the image of God, is totally and completely inappropriate.
I encourage you to revisit the overwhelming message of acceptance and love found in the vast majority of the Old Testament and the New Testament—passages that champion inclusiveness (Acts 10; Gen 1:26) not exclusiveness. You are not alone; pastors and priests throughout history have used the Bible to justify all sorts of things that we now find appalling like the subordination of women, slavery, and segregation. Simply claiming to be on God’s side does not mean that you are. Blaise Pascal reminds us that “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” I would ask that you pray about Christ’s message of loving God and loving one’s neighbor and ask yourself how you are loving your LGBT neighbors and their families.
Whether you realize it or not, your words stifle an ongoing struggle for equal rights—a struggle that will not only eventually be won, but one that will soon be understood and remembered as an extension of other successful “against the current” movements, such as the fight for women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. I am not expecting to change your mind with this letter, and as I have said earlier, you are well within your right as a religious institution to spread and teach your faith. Although I find your message offensive, appalling, and ultimately non-Christian, I believe in your constitutional right to express it. I am voting NO on this amendment in November because I don’t only support your freedom, I support my sister’s freedom too.
P.S. I will also be sending this letter to the parents in ___’s class so that they know why[he] will no longer be attending ___ pre-school.
I’ve redacted the child’s and Pastor’s names and used only the mother’s first name. Knowing M4M’s propensity to play the victim,I don’t want her or this blog to be accused of inciting animosity toward the pastor, even though his poor judgment I hope leads more parents from that school to have respectful but direct conversations with him.
There’s nothing I can add to Jenny’s eloquent letter, except perhaps some questions to our opponents: Can we all agree that using children as unwitting political footballs is unwise? If we believe that children should learn their values in the home, should that not be true of all sides on this volatile issue in this political season?
In short, can you promise not to stuff propaganda into 4 year-olds’ backpacks?