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Republican effort to support religious freedom again met by Democrat resistance

Tuesday, March 26, 2024


ST. PAUL – Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature on Monday intensified their efforts to address an issue related to religious freedom. Democrats then put that project on indefinite hold.

The afternoon started with a press conference 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.

State Rep. Walter Hudson, R-Albertville, said 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.

"Democrats have exposed faith communities to probable legal harassment from hostile activists looking to 'dismantle' traditional institution," Hudson said. "Their continued refusal to correct this unconstitutional encroachment upon fundamental rights is abhorrent and unacceptable."

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.