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After Deadline: Radical Baptist church ruffles few

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Many believe the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas exists only to court controversy. It might have found it — again — with its planned visit to Rochester this week.

The church has announced it plans to picket outside Mayo Clinic — which has provided same-sex health benefits to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples since 2000 — and Olmsted County's Vital Records and Licensing. Same-sex marriage licenses become available to the public on Aug. 1.

The initial storyhas been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and sparked numerous comments. A counter-protest is reportedly being planned by local citizens.

While covering PrideFest on July 21, I ended each interview by asking people's thoughts about the controversial church.

Some excerpts from three of those interviews:


"Everyone's entitled to their opinion," said Austin's Mark Burnett, co-chair of H Proud and Allies Employee Resource Group at Hormel Foods. "I personally think that particular church digs its own grave."

"I think it's pretty unfortunate that we have groups that are so intolerant," Rochester City Council President Randy Staver said. "It saddens me. If they do come, I certainly hope it's a very peaceful protest."

"I think they're just hateful and I hope people just ignore them and recognize them for what they truly are," said Mayo Clinic employee Joan Weber, who plans to marry her partner of 15 years in 2014.

— Brett Boese

A fair trade

St. Charles' Jesse Halling was clinically dead for about five minutes after coming in contact with a high-voltage powerline on July 9. The shock stopped his heart and his breathing. At some point during his recovery at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, he went to the gift shop to buy stuffed animals for his young boys.

On the way back to his room, he encountered a young boy who was recovering from brain surgery. One of Halling's stuffed animals was quickly placed in the boy's arms, and the other was given to Jacob, his 6-year-old son. When asked about it Saturday, Jacob said he'd already lost the stuffed monkey.

To recap: Jacob lost his dad, regained his dad, received a monkey and lost a monkey. I'd say he came out ahead in that ordeal.


Hand over the tchotchkes, or else

"Held Hostage by a Hospital" certainly is an attention-grabber as a headline.

An article in The New Republic magazine about Mayo Clinic and Destination Medical Center stirred the waters a bit in Rochester last week with loaded language painting Mayo Clinic as essentially robbing the city's citizens.

"There is little doubt that expansion will be good for Mayo. But what about Rochester? Will Mayo's plan create a better, more desirable city to live in? Or is Mayo merely engineering a city in its own right-brain image, a science city lacking verve, an artistic firmament, and a quirky small-city soul?" author Ilan Greenberg wrote.

Greenberg visited Rochester to research the article and interviewed the "avuncular" Mayor Ardell Brede in "his tchotchke-filled" office.

So what did Brede think of the article?

"When I first saw the headline, I thought it sounded a little nasty," said Brede calling from Bemidji, where he was attending Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities conference. "But I think the writer touched on a lot of positive things in the article itself."

However, Brede did note that he needed to look up the words "avuncular" and "tchotchke" when reading the piece.


— Jeff Kiger

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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