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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Walter Hudson (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, May 10, 2024

Dear Neighbor,

The House and Senate this week approved a variation of Republican legislation to re-establish protections for religious entities against discrimination claims. The bill is on the governor’s desk for enactment.

This move was necessary due to Human Rights Amendment legislation Democrats enacted in 2023, stripping religious protections that had been in place since 1993. Before last year, when gender identity was included (or subsumed) within the HRA 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.

Great news, right? It’s great that House Republicans took a major step toward restoring religious freedom which Minnesota Democrats stripped from faith-based organizations last year.

There’s just one thing: Democrats in full control of the Capitol are moving forward with other legislation that could make the bill restoring religious freedom a moot point, squashing any notion its bipartisan approval was anything more than a charade. The radical, revised, and misleading, “Equal Rights Amendment” will actually erase rights for millions of Minnesotans, enshrining highly controversial “gender theory” into our law, enabling babies in the ninth month to be aborted on demand for any reason, stripping Minnesotans of their right to religious freedom, and much, much more.

The Democrats’ attack on our fundamental religious liberty has, in fact, taken an insidious turn. While churches and religious organizations can take a brief sigh of relief as the religious exemption for “gender identity” has been restored in statute, this is not a moment to claim final victory for two key reasons.

First, we must consider the audacity and arrogance which motivated the Democrats’ violation of our rights to begin with. They have offered no apologies. Quite the contrary, at every step along the way, members of the Minnesota faith community have been treated with vile disrespect by Democrats – compared to chattel slavers, told their beliefs are wrong, and accused of preaching “hate.” This retreat was not out of respect, but electoral fear.

Second, this is a bait and switch. While the Democrats are retreating on the statutory front, they are moving full steam ahead with their so-called “Equal Rights Amendment,” which will strike a significantly greater blow to religious liberty and freedom of conscience. This tactical retreat is part of a larger strategy to comprehensively strip Minnesotans of their freedom.

With these realities in mind, we should nevertheless congratulate those happy warriors who rose from the community to demand the restoration of our rights. Thank you for engaging, organizing, contacting legislators, rallying, and not backing down. Particular thanks is due to the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the Minnesota Family Council, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, Restore Minnesota, and especially to those bold clergy and pastoral leaders who shepherded their folks into action.

Sen. Mitchell hearing

This week, the Senate Ethics Committee held a hearing to determine if Sen. Mitchell broke Senate rules when she – allegedly – broke into her stepmother's house before being arrested and charged with felony burglary.

The hearing, particularly as chaired in extraordinarily partisan fashion by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, was an absolute farce, an embarrassment to the state, and a condemnation of Minnesota Democrats.

The idea that we can't believe our lying eyes until a criminal trial concludes is beyond absurd. At issue was not whether to incarcerate Sen. Mitchell, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but whether her well-documented conduct violates senate rules, which can and should be determined independently.

To avoid making that determination, Mitchell had to literally plead the Fifth, and Champion had to dance around plain truth with audacious disregard for credulity, challenging the integrity of prosecuting authorities, media reports, and the Senate itself. His, "If the window don't fit, you must acquit" antics were shameless and embarrassing to watch.

A hearing of this nature – and importance – deserves to be conducted in a professional, transparent manner. Instead, we got amateur hour from the Senate at the expense of Minnesotans who deserve better.

The upshot is we now have a senator who is out on bail casting the deciding vote on highly charged laws impacting the lives of the very Minnesotans who were deprived of an honest hearing with even the slightest trace of integrity. Just yesterday, Mitchell's vote was the difference in a gun-control bill (H.F. 2609) passing the Senate, 34-33. That bill is now in the governor's hands to enact because Democrats not merely allowed, but counted on, the vote of a charged felon to gain approval on extremely controversial legislation.