Ventura’s interview in Playboy causes stir

by Erin Ghere

“Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers,” Gov. Jesse Ventura said in an interview published in the November issue of Playboy magazine, now selling out of stores.
His comments have caused a stir around the state, but many students and campus religious groups said the governor simply wasn’t thinking when he spoke.
Amy Olson, director of Hillel, the University’s Jewish Student Center, said she was not outraged by Ventura’s comments.
“The governor says things to be outrageous, and I don’t give a lot of weight to things he says in those types of contexts,” she said.
Others agreed.
“My first reaction is that it seems like a politically stupid thing to do,” said Justin Chapman, a member of the University Episcopal Center and a junior studying architecture.
“If that’s what he feels about religion, then that’s how he feels, but I disagree,” Chapman said. “And he doesn’t really represent me if he can’t respect me for having faith in something.”
Jen Wojcik, a senior studying child psychology, said Ventura obviously doesn’t realize the benefits of organized religion.
“I pity a man who believes in nothing but himself,” she said.
“Since (Ventura) says he believes in God, I thought he did it just for shock value, and, in doing so, only degraded his own moral values,” said Meg Slatter, a senior studying political science.
Both Slatter and Wojcik said they consider themselves practicing Catholics, although neither attend churches in the area.
State religious and family values-oriented groups became upset after Ventura’s comments were reported Wednesday, and some are calling for Ventura’s apology.
“The governor’s blatant attacks on religious faith are a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who take their faith seriously,” said Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, in a statement issued Thursday. The family council is a conservative pro-family organization.
The family council took out a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, denouncing the governor’s position.
In a letter sent to Ventura last week, Reform Party Chairman Russ Verney criticized the ex-wrestler for his comments.
“You have brought shame to yourself and disgrace to the members of the Reform Party,” Verney wrote.
Ventura dismissed Verney’s attack Sunday in taped comments for NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
In the Playboy interview, Ventura also said he understood — but did not condone — male naval aviators accused of fondling and groping female Navy officers at the 1991 Navy Tailhook convention in Las Vegas.
He also said that there was nothing wrong with his having tried marijuana and said people who commit prostitution or drug offenses shouldn’t be sentenced to prison.
If he could be reincarnated, Ventura said he would come back as a 38-DD bra.
Although Ventura said Thursday that he has no plans to apologize for his comments, he did try to explain himself.
“I want to be clear about one thing,” Ventura said in a letter to local religious leaders. “I respect the role that religious organizations play in our communities and, more importantly, that faith plays in people’s lives.
“While organized religion has not been a major influence in my adult life, I respect the beliefs and choices of others, including my close family members,” he wrote.
He said his own views on religion had been skewed by his military service during the Vietnam War era, making him skeptical.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.