As we noted Tuesday in Tea Party extremism? Severson slammed public schools for programming "socialist values," Bluestem is looking at Dan Severson's record of controversial statements that illustrate the candidate's tendency to make divisive claims.
One of these, made on Pastor Brad Brandon "The Word of Truth" radio show in 2010, has been used by the director of the Center For The Study Of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan College to illustrate a post, Religious Illiteracy and Religious Freedom:
In a recent survey by the First Amendment Center, 61% of Americans could name Freedom of Speech as a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, but only 23% could name Freedom of Religion. In the same survey, while two-thirds of Americans either strongly or mildly agreed that the First Amendment requires a clear separation of church and state, more than half (53%) incorrectly agreed that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.
With religious illiteracy so widespread, it should not be surprising when we see it displayed by candidates for public office, though it is especially disturbing in this context. In the 2010 election cycle, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in Minnesota, Dan Severson, argued in radio interviews that there was no requirement for separation of church and state because the U.S. is a Christian nation. More prominently, during a debate between the two candidates for U.S. Senator from Delaware, Republican/Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell expressed bewilderment when told that the Constitution prohibits the government from establishing any religion, replying: "You're telling me that's in the first amendment?" (Both Severson and O'Donnell lost their election bids.)
Virginia Wesleyan College is a small Methodist liberal arts college in Norfolk, Virginia; the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom explains the Wesleyan Connection here.
In 2010, the Star Tribune's Pat Doyle reported in GOP's Severson disputes church-state split:
Severson's position on separation of church and state surfaced last week on KKMS-AM, during "The Word of Truth" radio show, in a conversation with Pastor Brad Brandon of the Berean Bible Baptist Church in Hastings. Brandon was in the news lately for endorsing candidates from his pulpit on Sunday.
"Quite often you hear people say, 'What about separation of church and state?'" Severson said on the show. "There is no such thing."
"We are a nation based on Christian principles and ideals, and those are the things that guarantee our liberties...when you begin to restrict our belief and our attestation to our Christian values you begin to restrict our liberties."
"You simply cannot continue a nation as America without that Christian base of liberty," Severson said.
In an interview Wednesday, Severson said the First Amendment's prohibition on Congress establishing a religion or preventing its practice "doesn't say that religion cannot influence government. It was always intended."
Actually, the framers made a religious test for office unconstitutional.
While Brad Brandon may have made news in 2010 for the interview and for endorsing candidates from the pulpit as Doyle notes in the article, he also played a role in the 2012 debate over the amendment to restrict the right to marry. The Strib's Rachel Stassen-Berger reported in Marriage amendment supporters apologize for Hitler references:
The group pushing the marriage amendment apologized Monday after its director of church outreach told at least a couple small groups that the other side is using techniques similar to Adolf Hitler. . . .
At an event recorded by the rival campaign, the Rev. Brad Brandon tells a group in Brainerd that Hitler suppressed religious freedom and that religious freedom is at stake in the marriage fight.
“We’re not saying that one side or the other is equal to Adolf Hitler and the atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany,” Brandon said during a presentation that included a huge picture of the German ruler. “What we are simply saying is that when a totalitarian dictator takes place and wants to suppress the voice of a group…. they use certain tactics.”
The informational sessions were recorded and shared by Minnesotans United for All Families, the lead group trying to defeat the amendment. . . .
A couple weeks before the Brainerd event, Brandon made a similar pitch at a public seminar in Woodbury, which was attended by at least two other Minnesota for Marriage staffers, including its communication director.
Yeah, that guy. While campaiging for the Secretary of State's office in 2010, Severson also was a guest on Bradlee Dean's "Sons Of Liberty Radio Show" on October 2, 2010, according to the Dump Bachmann blog. The interview does not appear to be available via the SOLRS archives, but we did transcribe a bit at the time as well as do a bit of fact-checking about one of his election fraud claims.
Severson was introduced at the 2014 Republican Convention by current Minority Liberty Alliance and North Star Tea Party Patriot s co-founder Walter Hudson (Severson nomination and speech begins at the 2:55 time stamp in The Uptake's archives of the convention).
But in 2010, former Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer introduced him. Kiffmeyer shares Severson's dim view of the separation of church and state. (Paul Schmelzer interviews her here about the often cited claim that she told the audience at a 2004 National Day of Prayer that "the five 'most destructive words' in American life today are 'separation of church and state.'"
In introducing Severson, Kiffmeyer has a different sort of destruction in mind, which gave Severson another chance for more rhetorical bomb throwing, MinnPost political columnist Doug Grow reported in Secretary of State challenger Dan Severson declares 'war' for fall election:
"If there’s any question, we’re at war," he said. “War for democracy. War for the values our party stands for. ... Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Severson, unopposed at this convention, not only won endorsement but received big cheers as he questioned the integrity of current Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Severson said that photo ID will be the No. 1 issue of the campaign.
"That was a bad election in 2008," he said.
After winning endorsement by acclamation, Severson compared his situation to the days when he was in his fighter pilot, ready to hit the sky. His plane was equipped with bombs, missiles and cannon.
“But we needed fuel," he said, noting that his campaign needs to be fueled by money.
Minnesota voters rejected that analogy in 2010, a banner year for Republicans running for the state legislature, perhaps on the notion that the person overseeing elections might do well to avoid such comparisons.
Photo: Pastor and radio show host Brad Brandon (left) and Dan Severson (right). Via Word of Truth Radio "About Brad" page.
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