Kathleen Gilbert


Minnesota legislator threatens priest with IRS for defending marriage, then backs down

Kathleen Gilbert

ST. PAUL, May 10, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The lone Republican among Minnesota legislators who is opposed to a voter referendum on same-sex “marriage” appeared to threaten a priest with legal repercussions for defending true marriage; his office later backed down under fire from critics, calling the original conflict a misunderstanding.

Thomas Peters of CatholicVote.org reported Tuesday that Rev. John Echert of Holy Trinity/Saint Augustine Parish met with a harsh reply when attempting to contact freshman State Rep. John Kriesel over the Minnesota marriage amendment (HF 1613; SF 1308). The constitutional amendment would allow Minnesotans to vote on the definition of marriage on the 2012 ballot.

In an email to Kriesel reprinted in the parish bulletin, Echert said he was “very saddened” that Kriesel did not support the amendment and asking him to reconsider. “While we can legitimately debate issues related to finances and politics, those that are grounded upon basic moral principles and family values are rooted in the laws of God,” he wrote.

A staffer for Kriesel responded to “Mr. Echert” by stating, “I would like to respectfully remind you that the Internal Revenue Service frowns upon churches and religious organizations devoting time to influencing legislation. Your admission of the commencement of a politically involved ‘campaign’ will probably violate several state and federal tax provisions.”

Echert called the response “outright insulting and threatening” and noted that Kriesel apparently “stands by this response.” “Folks, God help us if the day has come when the Church cannot speak out on moral issues,” said the pastor, who urged parishioners to contact Kriesel to offer “respectful and charitable” criticism.

In an email to LifeSiteNews.com Tuesday, the same staffer, legislative assistant Tyler Elverud, said that both parties have “cleared things up.”

“The original email was misinterpreted and we have since come to an understanding,” Elverud wrote. “It was never meant to be any manner of threat and no manner of disrespect was intended whatsoever.”

Rev. Echert told LifeSiteNews.com that he had received an apology from Kriesel’s staff, but he also said the issue was not one of communication. “I wouldn’t describe it as a misunderstanding, I think he started to realized that he had been really rude,” said Echert. Kriesel himself has not apologized, he said.

The priest added that it appeared Kriesel’s office was getting “inundated” with negative feedback - and that the clash was not altogether a bad thing.

“In one sense I think sometimes you gotta hold somebody’s feet to the fire so that they wake up a bit,” he said, noting also the need for the faithful to be aware that “there are people who want to take away their rights.”

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