The pastoral outreach director for Minnesota for Marriage, a group supporting the proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman, is apologizing for linking support for gay marriage to oppression in Nazi Germany.
Pastor Brad Brandon was confronted about his statements at a forum in Brainerd last week over an analogy he made about Hitler's attempts to suppress religious freedom, telling several small groups that gay marriage supporters were using similar techniques.
Brandon seemed to claim that critics of gay marriage would be silenced, saying, "[Hitler] removed their voices in the public square and removed their control of their own businesses. So, he stopped Jewish people from speaking out in public and he silenced them."
The controversial remarks were made during a 40-minute Power Point presentation intended to sway voters to support the marriage amendment, but Brandon got off to a bumpy start.
"In this, we're not saying that one side or the another is equal to Adolf Hitler and the atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany," he said before he was interrupted by one of several audience members.
Many of the irked audience members said they were told the presentation would be a bipartisan discussion. One woman whose grandparents survived the Holocaust took particular exception to the comparison, and she didn't hold back.
"...That you not belittle the death of 6 million Jews by putting Adolf Hitler's picture and saying he took people's civil rights," she said. "No -- he was an insane murderer."
The debate over the marriage amendment has certainly been emotional so far, with both sides arguing their convictions with passion -- but Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, of Temple Israel in Minneapolis, said what happened at the voter information forum crossed the line.
"Once you use something such as Hitler and the Holocaust, you end any kind of civil discourse," he said.
A spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage said the reference was taken out of context or misunderstood, explaining that Brandon was trying to say that critics of gay marriage could be silenced if the amendment fails.
"He's apologized and he's apologized on behalf of the campaign. His point was absolutely correct; he was just using a poor analogy and an incorrect choice of words to make his religious liberties point," Autumn Leva said. "He's been instructed to no longer compare the loss of religious freedoms to Hitler and Nazi Germany."
Deputy Campaign Manager Andy Parrish had previously claimed Brandon's remarks were not sanctioned by the campaign and that he's been instructed to get back on message; however, the Star Tribune reported that Brandon made a similar pitch at a public seminar in Woodbury where at least two other Minnesota for Marriage staffers were present.
FOX 9 News also learned that a presentation in Bemidji also contained similar rhetoric, and Minnesota for Marriage's communications director was at the first event when the comparison was made.
"This wasn't an accident," argued Pastor Grant Stevensen, a faith director for Minnesotans United for All Families. "It wasn't a slip off the track. It was dead core to the center of the message they were trying to convey to the people who had gathered at this event."
These aren't the first controversial comments Brandon has made either. He is widely quoted as saying that homosexuals teach children to masturbate.