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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Greg Davids (R)

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

ST. PAUL – In spite of testimony from numerous religious organizations in the State of Minnesota, State Representative Greg Davids (R-Preston) said House Democrats are refusing to fix a bill passed last year that interferes with the First Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion. 


“Christians, Jews, and Muslims all testified and are all in agreement that this change must happen,” Davids said. “For House Democrats to focus more on their personal feelings rather than First Amendment rights is beyond extreme.”


Davids said the question centers on whether Minnesota’s religious organizations should have the freedom to hire employees who meet their mission.


Before last year, when gender identity was included within the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) definition of sexual orientation, the still-existing religious exemption for sexual orientation covered gender identity claims as well. When a new, separate definition of gender identity was passed into law by the legislative majority last year, there was no corresponding religious exemption added.


Assuming the change was a legislative oversight, a proposal was brought forward in a recent House committee hearing that would restore the status quo as it existed from 1993-2023. Doing so, Davids said, would protect religious organizations and faith-based schools against claims of gender identity discrimination and allow them to hire teachers and ministers consistent with their mission and values. 


Davids said the plan has broad support, as the committee heard from the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, Agudath Israel of Minnesota, and the Islamic Center of Minnesota.


Following their testimony, Democrats on the committee refused to back the amendment, preferring to continue keeping the religious exemption out of state law. 


“The last I checked, we had the right to speak freely, the right to bear arms, and the right to worship as we wish,” Davids said. “Over the past year, Democrats have come out against all three of these constitutional rights in some fashion, and it is truly alarming. In this case, we have separation of church and state for a reason, and that must continue.”


Since the exemption has been removed, Davids said at least one faith-based school is already dealing with an employment complaint at the department of human rights.