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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Marj Fogelman (R)

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

ST. PAUL – State Representative Marj Fogelman (R-Fulda) said efforts continued this week to re-establish a religious freedom in our state, but the House majority continued to oppose its progress.


On March 25, religious leaders throughout Minnesota joined Fogelman and other lawmakers at a press conference in calling for religious freedom to be restored in the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), protecting religious organizations and faith-based schools against claims of gender identity discrimination.


Later that afternoon, the House majority tabled a motion to bring forward legislation to make that happen, the third time this session the majority party blocked attempts at restoring religious freedom language to the MHRA.


Following the vote, House Democrat Judiciary Finance Chair Jamie-Becker Finn belittled the Republican attempt at re-establishing this religious freedom, telling the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “they're doing this because it gets them a lot of clicks and they get to give some fun speeches on the floor." 


“The House majority apparently thinks this is a joke and is upset we are calling them out at their attempt to chip away at your Constitutional rights,” Fogelman said. “Religious freedom isn’t something to be mocked. It is one of our most cherished privileges and is something I will always fight to protect.”


Fogelman noted that 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.


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.


The proposal Fogelman is supporting would once again ensure 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 House majority will revisit that bill.