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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Legislative update

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Dear Neighbors,

The Urdahl family wishes you and yours a blessed Easter holiday and joins you in gratitude for joyful renewal this season brings. Let this holiday be a joyous one as we celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice and offer thanks for our bountiful gifts.

The biggest headline from St. Paul this week is that Republicans on Monday intensified efforts to address an issue related to religious freedom. Democrats then put that project on indefinite hold.

It started with a press conference on Monday where dozens of religious leaders from around the state joined Republicans in calling for religious freedom to be restored in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, protecting religious organizations and faith-based schools against claims of gender identity discrimination.

Shortly thereafter, Democrats in the majority tabled a House Republican motion to bring forward legislation to make that happen. It was the third time this session Democrats had at least temporarily blocked a Republican attempt at restoring religious freedom language to the HRA, following committee votes in both the House and the Senate.

We presented the majority with an opportunity to fix this problem and reassure Minnesotans who are concerned their religious freedoms are under attack at the Capitol. We could have resolved this issue rather quickly to dispel the notion open season has been declared on religious beliefs in Minnesota – during Holy Week, nonetheless.

It’s unfortunate the House majority instead continues portraying the image our government’s views supersede our religious beliefs. This was a missed opportunity to restore in state law to our long-held consensus that religious communities in Minnesota have the autonomy to decide questions of faith.

As has been noted, before last year, when gender identity was included (or subsumed) within the 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 created last year, there was no corresponding religious exemption added. This issue caused alarm among Minnesota’s faith community and House Republicans worked with religious leaders to craft H.F. 3926, which ensures religious organizations and faith-based schools can, among other things, hire teachers and ministers consistent with their mission and values.

It remains unclear when – or if – the Democrat-controlled House will revisit that bill. At least one faith-based school already is facing an employment complaint at the department of human rights because of the removal of the exemption.

Watch for more legislative news after we return from the holiday weekend. Until then, please stay in touch and let me know how I may be of assistance.