Tim Pawlenty Speaks on Religious Values

On Friday, April 20, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty spoke at the Hilton Minneapolis during the Minnesota Family Council 35th Annual Dinner. The MFC is a faith-based organization whose mission is “to strengthen the families of Minnesota by advancing biblical principles in the public arena,” promoting conservative positions on prayer in public schools, abortion rights, and LGBT issues. Centered on a theme of “Let’s turn the LIGHT ON in Minnesota,” the evening’s discussion focused on the advancement of legislation that protects life, family, and religious freedom.

Pawlenty has publicly supported the same positions as the MFC. Describing himself as a social conservative, the 2018 gubernatorial candidate believes that state governments should prohibit abortion (except in cases of rape, incest, and the mother’s life), and he opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions. However, in keeping with the event’s theme, Pawlenty didn’t speak about his policies and plans. Instead, he encouraged the attendees to not be afraid to shine their light – their Christian values – in the civic sphere.

One of Pawlenty’s primary talking points was an anecdote about a former coworker who epitomized what it means to “shine your light.” Pawlenty said that every time he spoke to this coworker, the man was so gracious and joyful and simply radiated a positive energy. His other coworkers confirmed that they’d had the same experience with this man. Pawlenty emphasized that this coworker never tried to shove his beliefs down anyone’s throat. He was an inspiration and a wonderful person to be around, purely because of who he was. Pawlenty encouraged the attendees to follow suit. Recognizing that preaching typically isn’t effective, Pawlenty advised the Christian audience members to focus on exhibiting joyfulness and graciousness in all of their interactions with others. Christians often receive criticism for “shoving their beliefs down others’ throats,” so Pawlenty’s recommendation could be a more beneficial strategy for the religious right.

A Republican typically cannot speak to the public without two things popping up: a mention of President Trump, and a protest. Both certainly occurred on Friday. Although Pawlenty voted for Trump and generally supports the President, he did make a correction to one of Trump’s classic lines. “We have a president who likes to say ‘so much winning’,” Pawlenty said. “What if, instead of saying we have done ‘so much winning,’ he said ‘so much loving’?” The message was clearly aimed at people in the audience, as Trump is highly unlikely to shift his focus away from winning. Pawlenty clearly highlighted what it means to be “loving” on a personal level; unfortunately, he never clarified what “loving” government policies would look like for him.

Although the exact size of the protest is unknown, a number of people congregated in front of the hotel to protest Pawlenty. Some were dressed in drag, and many were holding signs, including one that read, “Please pray for my transgender child” in rainbow lettering. Given the MFC and Pawlenty’s mixed history on LGBT issues, it is not surprising that many were angered by his presence. As an organization that was founded in 1983 to fight the teaching of tolerance for homosexuals in schools, the MFC doesn’t try to hide its opposition to the LGBT agenda. Fortunately, the protest doesn’t appear to have turned violent, and the event went undisturbed.

Although Pawlenty did not speak about individual policies, there will be plenty of opportunities for that to come as the Minnesota governor race continues. Nevertheless, the MFC Annual Dinner was an important opportunity for the candidate to mobilize his religious supporters.