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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

ST. PAUL - Minnesota’s religious organizations are one step away from once again having the right to hire employees who meet their mission, thanks to Republican insistence that this religious freedom be restored.


On May 7, the legislature approved a plan amending the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) to re-establish protections for religious entities against discrimination claims. The move was necessary after a law passed by Democrats last year interfered with the First Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion. 


State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said he was pleased to support the legislation.


“The churches, religious-based schools and institutions of higher learning in our district have always been guaranteed protections under the First Amendment,” Torkelson said. “These protections should have never disappeared in the first place, but I’m pleased our voices were heard and that freedom will soon be restored.”


Torkelson said before last year, when gender identity was included 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 by Democrats last year, there was no corresponding religious exemption added. 


If Governor Walz signs the bill into law, that religious exemption will be established.


“Constitutional rights should never be up for debate, and our faith-based organizations should never have to worry about government interference into the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Torkelson concluded.