The Rev. Steve Goold and the Rev. Doug Donley found themselves on opposites sides of the debate as their prayers to god for guidance on the issue of gay marriage gave them both different answers.

Mr Goold, senior pastor of the Crystal Evangelical Free Church in New Hope said that he felt compelled by God to voice his objection in the gay marriage debate at the Minnesota Capitol. “We see and have a very clear biblical conviction, based on our understanding of Scripture, that marriage is between one man and one woman,” he told a crowd of over 1000 people, gathered on the Capitol lawn in support of an amendment defining marriage as a union only possible between a man and a woman.

Mr Donley, pastor of University Baptist Church in Minneapolis, interpreted the Bible in a rather different way. He told his congregation: “The heart of the Gospel is one of inclusion. Whenever Jesus was given the opportunity to exclude somebody, he included all people.” Explaining that he thought it was important that religious people were publicly seen to be on both sides of the debate he said that he had misgivings about writing “one interpretation of the Scripture into the constitution.”

Mr Donely’s views put him at odds with the majority of his colleagues. 200 religious leaders signed a petition last year at a specially organised summit, supporting the Minnesotan amendment excluding same sex couples from marriage.

John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religious and Public life said that it was no surprise that religious views would be so central to the policy debate. “Traditionally people in the United States tend to have a traditional view of marriage,” he noted. “You simply can’t have a debate about these topics without religion becoming part of the debate.”

Senator Dean Johnson, who is also a Lutheran pastor, said: “The issue of gay marriage is the toughest issue I have ever dealt with.” He concluded: “if you interpret holy Scripture literally, this is the end result. But if you interpret holy Scripture as being kind, gentle and forgiving and second chances and caring and compassion, as I understand the Scriptures to be, then you come up with a different answer.”