All the Archbishop’s Men: Using 4 year-olds’ Backpacks to Deliver a Vote Yes Message

24 Sep

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.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Can they Agree to Not Use Children as Political Footballs and Unwilling Messengers? (Photo Pioneer Press)

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.

Jenny: “This does not belong in my 4 year-old’s backpack.”

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.

Jenny [redacted]

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?

7 Responses to “All the Archbishop’s Men: Using 4 year-olds’ Backpacks to Deliver a Vote Yes Message”

  1. S September 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    It might not be the best avenue to promote an issue however she chose to send her child there she was not forced to send her child to a christian preschool where I’d have to believe she would have known that certain values would be part of the classroom setting. If she didn’t want that she shouldn’t have sent her child there in the first place. Given the title content of the article it gives the perception that this came from a Catholic school. Its no secret that the Catholic church is for this amendment.

  2. Alex Wagner September 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Well, it’s certainly nice of you to ascribe some measure of sincerity to the Vote Yes group, but let’s be real here. This isn’t about kids “learning values in the home.” It’s about making sure that no kid anywhere, except for maybe private schools run by secular organziations or liberal Christian churches (Breck School, Blake School, Mounds Park Academy, etc.) ever learns anything in school that is even remotely LGBT-friendly.

    Although I would give the bishops and the conservative priests this much: I think a lot of them sincerely believe that the vast majority of parents who send their kids to Catholic preschools are just as anti-LGBT as they are, but may just need a little reminder. They don’t see it as “using kids as political footballs” because they sincerely believe that almost everybody in the Catholic Church agrees with them except for a few gadflies.

    This is why it’s so important for LGBT allies within the Catholic Church to either leave, like I did, or be much more vocal. Especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the ELCA will give you almost everything you like about the Catholic Church, without all of the bigotry.

    • Angel September 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

      Yeah, silly Catholics…tricks through our kid’s….shame on you:(
      ***But seriously….I volunteered at this Lutheran church a few months ago and learned that that church split in half, due to the fact that they were agreeing with, or going to allow Gay Marriage within that church, needless to say that is why half the congregation left together with one of the Pastors and started their own church. I think it’s not only that church but some sector or certain Lutheran denomination. Correct me if I’m wrong!!!
      ~~~~I believe and don’t really care Governmentally (since the Gov./States are suppose to be separate from Religion anyways) if gays get married as long as its by a Judge…and not allowed in all the Christian Church’s…..or no Christian Minister nor Ordained Minister is allowed to marry a Gay/Lesbian Marriage.
      …Just Saying!!!!

      • thuginpastels September 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

        If you believe that gays should be able to be married by a judge, the only way to vote is No. Churches can decide what they want to do with marriages. Right now the Catholic Church will not generally perform a wedding for a Catholic marrying a Jew, for example. That’s their prerogative. It will remain their prerogative even if, in the future, same sex marriages are allowed. The reality is that right now there are Christian churches that DO want to perform same-sex unions, and their religious freedom is infringed upon by the status quo, a status quo that some religious figures like the Archbishop want to make permanent by placing a ban to same-sex unions in the constitution.

  3. Daniel Foster September 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    in response to S: She shouldn’t have sent her child to a Christian school knowing “certain values” would be included? Values such as . . . . treating those born differently than yourself as second class citizens? Terming them as intrinsically morally evil? (as the Catholic church does). These are not “values,” these are reprehensible, antiquated views that should be called out and shunned by any decent society.

  4. Michael B. September 25, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    Erm, you did not completely redact the names, in the last sentence of the first block the name of the son is still written out.
    Anyway, a great letter that I will certainly spread.
    Keep on fighting to get rid of that horrific amendment. If they don’t want gay marriage, they shouldn’t get one!
    Best wishes from Switzerland,

    • thuginpastels September 25, 2012 at 6:04 am #

      Thanks for catching that. Just so you know, Jenny was ok with being identified but I decided against it because, as I’ve written about, the other side has a propensity to play the victim. I didn’t want her or this blog blamed should some crazy decide to yell at the Pastor who made this unfortunate decision.

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