Minnesota Attorney General-elect Keith Ellison kicked off his statewide listening tour Tuesday night in Duluth where he attacked his campaign opponent Republican Doug Wardlow for defending religious liberty.
Wardlow previously worked for an organization called Alliance Defending Freedom, which offers pro-bono legal representation to help people defend their First Amendment rights. The group was, however, placed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map,” and Ellison used that designation to malign Wardlow on the campaign trail.
On Tuesday, Ellison returned to attacking Alliance Defending Freedom, which is currently representing a St. Cloud couple in their effort to deny videographer services to same-sex weddings. Ellison claimed his office will work to ensure that “people are treated with dignity and respect in our society.”
“Let me just share this with you. My opponent who—I’m not here to say anything bad about my opponent. I’m a good winner. I won. I’m glad. I love everybody,” Ellison said. “But I do want to say that he stood for, he worked for this institution that said that their religious liberty entitled them to discriminate against other people who their religion didn’t approve of.”
He went on to suggest that the constitution’s establishment clause means that “I get to go to any house of worship I want to, pray how I want to,” but doesn’t allow for the use of “the arm of the government to impose my religious views on anyone else.”
“And what they’re saying is ‘no, religious liberty means if I don’t like gay people I get to exclude them from service.’ And I just don’t buy that at all. So the second thing that we want to do is respect people’s rights as members of our society, uphold their dignity as just human beings, and treat people with fairness, dignity, and respect,” Ellison continued, saying his office will “be standing with the Department of Human Rights.”
Ellison then discussed the legal battle in St. Cloud, and vowed that his office won’t “allow that kind of stuff.”
“But really what it was saying was that without there even being someone discriminated against yet, they said before anybody walks in the door we want to file a lawsuit to be exempt from the Minnesota Human Rights Act on the basis of LGBT stuff. We want to be able to put a sign up that says we don’t serve them,” Ellison claimed before comparing the case to the civil rights movement.
“I’m going to tell you, we think about the civil rights movement in the 60’s. There might be people in this very room who went down to the south to work on things like Freedom Summer,” he said. “People getting cigarettes put out on them, coffee poured out on them just because they wanted to say that everybody should be treated with fairness.”
“And so are we going to allow ourselves to go back to those bad old days?” Ellison concluded. “Absolutely we’re not going to do it.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Church Sanctuary” by David Iliff, CC 3.0.