In God's Name

When leaders say they're pro-family and Christian, look for the devil in the details

The chief lobbying group behind these efforts (and the main source in Malley's story) is the Minnesota Family Council, a 20-year-old organization that is on a crusade to "defend and strengthen the families of Minnesota by upholding Judeo-Christian principles in the public arena." Its leadership, which is, confoundingly, quoted in the local media as representative of traditional conservatism, is repressed, ignorant, and intolerant. They're also emboldened by a number of new legislators that one longtime Republican lobbyist told me are "downright mean" and a budget crisis that is distracting public attention from a fundamentalist social agenda with legs. "The trend toward cultural conservatism is only picking up steam in Minnesota," MFC president and ubiquitous hatemonger Tom Prichard boasted to the Star Tribune on January 23. Sadly, there's a good chance he's as right as his organization is wrong-headed.

What's most troubling is that, besides the occasional column or op-ed, Pawlenty's ties to the "Christian" right have gone unscrutinized by the local media, who seem so charmed by the handsome, hockey-playing hot shot that they have neglected to connect the dots between his past voting record, the lobby groups that have his ear, and his religious background (perhaps the most embarrassing examples of this sort of political reporting have run in the Star Tribune, where the postelection profiles were as sycophantic as they were lazy).

As a member of the House, Pawlenty supported abstinence-only sex ed; voted to censure the health department and the Minnesota AIDS Project for sexually explicit, offensive advertising (condom, it seems, is a four-letter word); censored sexual health messages for gay and bisexual men (most at risk for the AIDS virus, about which "compassionate" conservatives are suddenly professing to care); and endeavored to keep birth control and safe-sex information away from public school students. And while he's been careful not to align himself publicly with groups like the Minnesota Family Council this session, it's no secret that they see him both as an ally and a change agent.

And why not? Pawlenty spends Sunday mornings at Wooddale Church, a nondenominational megaplex in Eden Prairie that reaches out to prospective members by soft-selling its agenda, which in word and deed is strikingly similar to that of the Family Council's--pro family as long as your family walks, talks, and believes just like theirs.

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