ST. PAUL -- Tensions escalated Thursday over a Republican lawmaker's remark that a Jewish colleague had ''irreligious left views,'' as DFLers filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee.
Rep. Arlon Lindner of Corcoran made the comment toward Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, during a floor debate over pre-session prayers. The House was deciding whether to lift a year-old ban on religion-specific references in the prayers.
The DFL members who filed the complaint, which will be heard by a panel of two Republicans and two DFLers, said Lindner's comment was ''outrageous'' and an embarrassment. They said it breached House rules regarding member conduct and decorum.
The same members had already included a petition of protest in the House journal. Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, said more than 60 legislators, including nine Republicans, signed on.
''This was an anti-Semitic remark attacking not only Representative Paymar but thousands of Jewish people throughout the state,'' said Entenza, who is not Jewish.
Lindner acknowledged it wasn't the best choice of words and said he would probably not use them again. As to whether it was an ethical lapse, Lindner said, ''I don't think so.''
But Lindner said Paymar was trying to assert his view of political correctness on the House and that is an ''extreme'' view. He said the term ''religious right'' is often applied to Republicans.
Paymar is not among the group that filed the complaint and did not immediately return a call.
Lindner said he doesn't owe Paymar an apology, but he plans to speak with other Jewish colleagues.
''I want them to know that I wasn't referring to Jewish people,'' Lindner said.
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