Tuesday, March 11, 2003

More on Lindner

Oh boy.

The usually lively Minnesota House was silent as Rep. Arlon Lindner rose Monday afternoon to address the 134-member body.

House Democrats, Jewish groups and gay rights organizations wanted Lindner to apologize for his recent statements denying that homosexuals were persecuted during the Nazi Holocaust.

But the Corcoran Republican, who is well known for controversial remarks, only made them angrier: He repeated his doubts about the persecution of gays during the Holocaust, and he said if the Legislature doesn't pass his bill stripping gay people of protection under the state's Human Rights Act, Minnesota children may be subjected to a holocaust of their own, and America could become "another African continent."

African-Americans and other members of the House jumped to their feet to protest, and by the end of the evening, the governor had joined them, calling Lindner's statements "troubling."

"I am embarrassed for us today when I think about the evil, bigoted statement that was just expressed," said Rep. Keith Ellison. "It seems every time this gentleman says something, he digs himself a deeper hole and embarrasses this state."

In the course of his service in the Legislature, Lindner has said that Buddhism is a cult and called a Jewish colleague "irreligious."

Neva Walker, who, like Ellison, is an African-American and a Democrat representing Minneapolis, said Lindner had personally attacked her with his words, and she urged his constituents to make sure he does not return to the state Capitol after the 2004 election. Lindner was just elected to his sixth term with nearly 61 percent of the vote in his district.

Lindner, who has a master's degree in divinity, said later that he was not trying to insult Africans or African-Americans — he was simply trying to say that many people in Africa are infected with HIV or have AIDS.