Tim Pawlenty sidesteps God on health care for the poor as faith leaders step up criticism


When is the religious right neither? When it comes to the question of how Minnesota ought to look out for the poor, it seems.

The issue has come up because Tim Pawlenty, a conservative evangelical Christian who never wastes an opportunity to tell his audiences that "God is in charge," has vetoed extended state funding for the General Assistance Medical Care program for low-income adults. That moved earned him a sharp rebuke from Grant Stevensen, pastor at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in St. Paul.

Governor please, stop talking to us about God. The governor is going around saying 'God is in control.' We elected you. We elected you to be making decisions for this state that will help everyone in this state. Things that will lift up the poorest in this state. Don't pass this on to God. That's no God we've ever heard of.

And please stop lecturing us about God. It's offensive. The only God we're aware of is the one who says 'If you want to follow me, you'll look our for the widows, and the orphans, for the fatherless, for the poorest in the land.' Please stop talking to us about God. It's offensive. We can't take it.

MPR's Tom Scheck caught Stevensen's comments on tape the other day. And he isn't letting go, reporting that Pawlenty sidestepped a question about the pastor's rebuke in a news conference on Wednesday. And he spoke with Alexandra Fitzsimmons with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, who reinforced the need for the state to consider the fate of the poor when making budget decisions.

"There does seem a difference in approach from looking at it as a human life issue versus an economic issue," said Fitzsimmons. "I think the human life piece needs to come first."

Catholic Charities, the Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and bishops from several other denominations have also sent letters supporting a fix to GAMC.