The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis did not violate state campaign laws by mailing a DVD on marriage to 400,000 Catholics before the 2010 election, Minnesota’s Campaign Finance Board ruled Dec. 8.
Kurt Anderson, an attorney from Minneapolis who received the DVD, filed a complaint with the board alleging that the archdiocese failed to register as a lobbyist, political fund or a principal as required by state law.
The state board rejected the complaint on the grounds that the marriage issue was not on the ballot at the time of the mailing and was not an issue before the legislature.
“There is a sufficient basis on which to reasonably conclude that the archdiocese's communications were for a purpose other than to influence legislative action,” the board said.
The archdiocese provided its initial response to the complaint in May 2011. It characterized the DVD and letter packet as a message from the archbishop to Catholics about an important matter of public concern in which the archbishop explains his position.
The archdiocese emphasized that the packet was not sent to legislators or to the general public. Rather, it was “a private message to church members.” It did not request or instruct Church members to contact their legislators.
Anderson told Minnesota Public Radio News that he thought the campaign review board’s decision “ignores the plain language of Minnesota Statutes.”
“Unfortunately Catholics such as myself, who are sitting in the pews every Sunday when the collection baskets come around, have no accounting for this expenditure; and Minnesotans generally have been subjected to a large and potentially corrupting dose of hidden political money.”
The Minnesota legislature has placed a constitutional amendment to the November 2012 ballot to define marriage as one man and one woman. At present, the definition of marriage can be changed by the Minnesota legislature, and several legislators had pledged to act to recognize gay “marriage.”
On Dec. 9 Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a prayer for the success of the amendment and “all efforts to strengthen marriage.”
He called upon all Catholics of his archdiocese to embrace Fridays as a “particular day of prayer and sacrifice” for the amendment’s success.
The prayer asks God:
“Grant to us all the gift of courage to proclaim and defend your plan for marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive relationship of loving trust, compassion, and generosity, open to the conception of children.”