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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, March 22, 2024

The above photo is one I made several years ago of Saint Peter's Catholic Church in Delano during an epic harvest moon.


The House majority and the Senate majority have both made it clear they believe the state’s views trump your religious freedom. They did so in their words and speech as they voted down a committee amendment offered to fix a problem in the Minnesota Human Rights Act they enacted last year.

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 last year, there was no corresponding religious exemption added. 

When faith groups raised concerns over this issue after the Legislature adjourned last year, many assumed this was a simple oversight, and the Minnesota Human Rights Department and majority would support a fix to restore the status quo as it existed from 1993-2023. But corrective language is missing from the department’s bill presented this year, which is why, at the request of Minnesota’s faith community, Republicans authored an amendment to rectify this situation.

The issue started coming to a head Feb. 29, when House Democrats voted down that measure to simply restore the religious exemption in the MHRA protecting religious organizations and faith-based schools against claims of gender identity discrimination. The language would ensure religious organizations and faith-based schools can, among other things, hire teachers and ministers consistent with their beliefs, values, and teachings. Already, at least one faith-based school is facing an employment complaint over this issue.

Not only did House Democrats vote down the amendment, but the cynical attitude and insults they directed at members of our religious community who testified were unbecoming. Our faith leaders who came to testify using compassion while tenderly communicating their support for the amendment deserved better. The treatment they received from the majority is completely unacceptable, an injustice in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

In any case, Senate Democrats had a chance to restore the law to our long-held consensus that religious communities in Minnesota have the autonomy to decide questions of faith. Instead, they only leaned harder into their radical position that your religious freedoms take a back seat to the state’s rule.

The blatant attack on religious freedom we are seeing in the Legislature this session is nothing short of a slap in the face to organizations that have done so much great work in our state and nation. It’s also a kick in the gut to Minnesotans who cherish religious liberties – and even to our founders who thought enough of liberty in faith to enshrine the concept of separation of church and state in our Constitution.

It's hard to fathom such treatment of groups who have done so much for our society. These organizations have been instrumental in helping the poor, sick and disabled, whether it be through hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, shelters and other outfits they have sponsored. Yet here we are today, with the Democrat party in full control of the Capitol declaring open season on their religious beliefs, wiping away the separation of church and state after assuring us for years their anti-discrimination push would spare these entities.

This is a call to action for citizens in Minnesota.  I personally have written a letter to local faith leaders urging them to stand tall for their beliefs and will continue advocating for our religious freedom at the Capitol because this is not the last word on this legislation. Please join me in doing what you can to join the cause so we can restore religious freedom in Minnesota. May God have mercy on the souls whose extremist actions have brought us down this path.

God bless,


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