Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

Back to profile

Mekeland: House Republicans score win for religious freedom

Wednesday, May 8, 2024


ST. PAUL – State Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake, said House Republicans took a major step toward restoring religious freedom which Minnesota Democrats stripped from faith-based organizations last year.

The House on Tuesday approved a variation of Republican legislation, amending the Minnesota Human Rights Act to re-establish protections for religious entities against discrimination claims. The bill unanimously passed the Senate earlier in the day and, with the House also providing unopposed approval, it is now on Gov. Tim Walz’s desk for enactment.

“Minnesotans spoke and the Legislature responded accordingly,” Mekeland said. “Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? The language we approved achieves our goal of restoring protections that were taken away from religious entities last year. This is a nice win for upholding our constitutional freedom of faith in Minnesota.”

Mekeland said this move was necessary due to HRA legislation Democrats enacted in 2023, eliminating religious protections that had been in place since 1993. 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.

Mekeland said he is confident the courts ultimately would have ruled the change Democrats made last year unconstitutional. He also indicated he’s glad it didn’t get that far.

“We’ve seen countless examples of reckless government overreach with Democrats in full control of the Capitol and this one caught up with them,” Mekeland said. “We’ll never know whether religious leaders got through to them, whether they realized they were on shaky constitutional ground, or if it was just a moment of clarity that got them to agree with Republicans on this issue. Whatever the case, it’s good we addressed this problem before it dragged on any longer at the expense of Minnesotans on multiple levels.”