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House Ethics Committee hears testimony in Lindner case
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Rep. Arlon Lindner, left, and his attorney, James Anderson, listen to testimony during a House Ethics Committee hearing on comments Lindner made on the House floor. (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
DFL lawmakers asked the House Ethics Committee Monday night to discipline Rep. Arlon Lindner, R-Corcoran, for comments that offended some homosexuals and blacks. They argued that Lindner made bigoted statements that brought dishonor to the House. Lindner's attorney said the charges are false, and Lindner's comments have been taken out of context.

St. Paul, Minn. — The ethics complaint stems from the comments Arlon Lindner made on the House floor.

"Most of my life, when the word Holocaust was referred to, it usually referred to the Jewish suffering and death that occurred under the Nazi occupation. It's just been within the recent two or three years that it's been brought forward that homosexuals also suffered like that," Lindner said a month ago.

There has always been a special place in my heart and life for God's words about the Jewish people.
- Rep. Arlon Lindner

Lindner questioned whether the Nazis persecuted homosexuals during World War II. The Corcoran Republican is sponsoring a bill that would remove human rights protection for gays and lesbians. Lindner says his bill is designed to prevent children from getting AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases, and to keep the U.S. from "becoming another African continent." Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, one of two African-American state lawmakers, says Lindner disgraced the Minnesota House of Representatives.

"That question mark sitting over this building is whether we represent all the people of this state or not," he said. "And whether or not an elected official, a person who holds an election certificate can spout bigoted language, mean-spirited, untrue statements designed to injure members of the community and members of this body. That is the issue."

Ellison and the other House Democrats who filed the ethics complaint asked the ethics committee to censure Lindner and remove him as chairman of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee. They read letters from out-of-state residents who said they cancelled vacation plans in Minnesota after learning of Lindner's comments.

Lindner's attorney, James Anderson, says Lindner's critics are relying on media reports that took Lindner's comments out of context. Anderson says Lindner never denied that the Holocaust occurred, he simply questioned the extent to which the Nazis persecuted homosexuals.

Anderson questioned Hinda Kibort of Edina, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor. Kibort says gays were forced to wear pink triangles in the concentration camp she was in, and she said she believed Lindner denied the Holocaust.

"Because if he denies a part of what happened, he denies the Holocaust. There is no way around that," she said.

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Image Witness to the Holocaust

"And let me say, Mrs. Kibort, I'm on the same page with you on this one. If an individual had denied the Holocaust, that individual would either be woefully ignorant or a bigot," Anderson replied.

"Well, I feel that he's both," she said.

The packed hearing room was mostly filled with Lindner critics, some wearing pink triangles, others verbally mocking Lindner's defense.

Lindner says he was saddened to see that his comments on the House floor were edited by Democrats to exclude his knowledge of the Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.

"As a Christian who believes the Bible is true, there has always been a special place in my heart and life for God's words about the Jewish people. In Genesis 12:3, the Lord says regarding the Jewish nation, 'I will bless them that bless thee and I will curse them that curse thee,'" he said.

Lindner says the Bible is his guide for living, and the Bible teaches that homosexual activity is wrong, sinful and harmful. He also said the charge of black racism is baseless.

One of the ethics committee members, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, says Lindner's comments were offensive, but Lindner has the right to say them.

"It's not my thoughts, and it's been frustrating for me because I can't express my thoughts because I sit on this committee. I can't say how stupid I think the things he said are; I can't say that. But they were. I think they were tremendously outrageous, what he said, and I don't condone them, the Republican House Caucus does not condone them," Davids said.

Davids and the other three ethics committee members took the matter under advisement. The two Republicans and two Democrats must decide whether there is probable cause to discipline Lindner. Lindner also faced an ethics charge three years ago, after he referred to a Jewish lawmaker's "irreligious left" views. Then, the Ethics Committee decided the comments didn't warrant disciplinary action.

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