NLS Ministerial hopes to be out of headlines soon

WILLMAR -- NLS Ministerial President Bill Miller didn't want to comment about the letter of apology Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson is to write to him.

WILLMAR -- NLS Ministerial President Bill Miller didn't want to comment about the letter of apology Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson is to write to him.

He did want to describe the January meeting of New London-Spicer pastors at which Johnson made the comments that led Republican senators to file an ethics complaint against him.

"We were just one of I don't know how many meetings he had that day," Miller said, and pastors at the meeting "could see him losing energy" as the meeting wore on.

It reminded the group "that we need to keep praying for our leaders," Miller said, and they said a prayer for Johnson and other leaders.

Next week, Johnson, DFL-Willmar, will deliver a public apology to the Minnesota Senate and write a letter to the NLS Ministerial for comments he made at that meeting.


After those apologies, the ethics complaint against him will be dismissed.

Brent Waldemarsen, a Willmar pastor, recorded the meeting without the knowledge of others in the room. Johnson was recorded saying that members of the Minnesota Supreme Court had told him they would be unlikely to overturn a state law banning gay marriage.

The recording was released 10 days ago by a group supporting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions. That group and others accused Johnson of lying about his conversations with justices. The Supreme Court's chief justice said he didn't believe any such conversations took place.

Johnson apologized for his statements and said he exaggerated a previous casual conversation with a justice.

"I'm happy to have this put behind us, because there are no winners," Miller said.

"Brent Waldemarsen is not a winner in this thing; his church is not a winner," he added. "Dean Johnson is not a winner; it's a sad thing for him."

Waldemarsen, pastor of Harvest Community Church in Willmar, said Friday afternoon that he didn't really have an opinion about the ethics settlement.

"This is his peers, and if they feel it's appropriate, I'm not the one to say it's right or it's wrong," he said.


Waldemarsen said he hasn't had second thoughts about recording the meeting. "There never was any evil intent," he said. "I was within my rights, and it was a public meeting."

Waldemarsen's actions still upset him, Miller said. "One of the things that saddens me and troubles me is that I felt I had to criticize a pastor in a public forum," he said.

A Kandiyohi County Republican leader said he was satisfied with the resolution of the ethics complaint, too.

"To my way of thinking, that seems like a fair resolution," said county co-chair Rollie Nissen of Willmar. "That's my personal opinion."

People he's talked to "from both sides of the aisle" have told him they believe the Legislature needs to move on and get its work done this year, he said.

Nissen said he was glad Johnson would be apologizing to the Senate.

"We can all make mistakes," he said, but the issue did need to be aired.

"It's something that had to be discussed, quite frankly," he said. "I believe there was a reasonable debate; some of it was a little shrill on both sides."


As to whether Johnson or members of the Supreme Court are ultimately telling the truth, "the voters will probably decide this fall," Nissen said.

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