Ventura office faces slip of the pen
Brian Bakst
Associated Press
Published Aug 1, 2002

The Minnesota Family Council considers it providence. Gov. Jesse Ventura's office says it was a mistake. Whatever the case, Minnesota's staunchly secular governor has proclaimed Oct. 13-19 Christian Heritage Week.

Ventura's office tried unsuccessfully Wednesday to undo the proclamation it filed earlier in the day with the secretary of state's office.

The order, bearing Ventura's signature, runs counter to his long-standing opposition to mixing government and religion. Throughout his term, he repeatedly has refused to sign similar proclamations.

One of the proclamations Ventura refused to sign was one for a National Day of Prayer.

Less than a month ago, he riled some religious Minnesotans by issuing a proclamation at the request of an atheist group.

The new order -- the most noteworthy of 17 submitted Wednesday -- cites comments and writings of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry and George Mason and recognizes them as statesmen "who did not hesitate to express their faith."

The proclamation quotes Washington as saying, "Animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and conducting ourselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, we may enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity."

"Somehow it got in the wrong pile," Ventura's spokesman John Wodele said. "It would not have been approved."

It's too late to take it back, a spokesman for Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer said. "There is no deproclamatizing. Once it's filed, it's filed," said Kent Kaiser. "It's not like every time they send something we call over and ask, 'Did you mean it?' "

Early in his term, Ventura personally reviewed each proclamation request. But as requests mounted, he delegated the duty to his director of citizen outreach, who considers them with the governor's principles in mind and uses an autopen to affix his signature.

The Virginia-based Christian Heritage Ministries has asked for the proclamation each year Ventura has been in office. Previously, his office sent a certificate of recognition when the ministries requested the more formal proclamation, Wodele said.

He said Ventura will again send a certificate, despite the inadvertent signing of the proclamation, along with a letter of explanation and apology if the group is confused or embarrassed by the mix-up and resulting publicity. Kiffmeyer may send the group the formal proclamation if she decides to.

The group's Web site notes that Christian Heritage Week observances have occurred in more than 40 states and aim to recognize "the Christian principles upon which our country was founded, and thus glorifying the God of our fathers and resuscitating the historic, biblical legacy which is ours."

Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, said the slip-up is poetic justice. He has criticized Ventura for not signing the day of prayer proclamation and for disparaging religion in a 1999 Playboy magazine interview.

"Inadvertently, or providentially some might say, he's recognized the role of faith and religion in our society," he said. "We'll gladly accept that."

ONLINE:

To read the proclamation, go to:

http://www.churchsermon.org/news/proclamation.htm

Copyright 2002 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.