Restoration of Religious Protections in MHRA

Urge Legislators to Restore Religious Exemptions

The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) has been in place since the late 1960s and serves the purpose of ensuring that all Minnesotans are treated as equals, and that no one is discriminated against based on personal traits including race, disability, religion, sex, and others.

In 1993, sexual orientation was added as a protected status, and an exemption for religious organizations was added to allow them to act in accordance with their religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation. This change guaranteed religious freedom and allowed all faith communities to live out their beliefs, choose their own clergy and teachers, and teach their values to their children.

Last year, the Legislature passed an amendment to the MHRA which added “gender identity” as a protected status but did not include a religious exemption. This change prohibits religious organizations, churches, and schools from acting on religious beliefs regarding human sexuality.

This is a drastic shift in the MHRA and a serious infringement on religious liberties in Minnesota.

To be sure, how to respond to the issues of gender and sexual identity are matters of serious debate and, within religious communities, of real pastoral sensitivity. Religious congregations are places of welcome, but also transformation according to principles that we do not create but are given to us from above. They should have the autonomy and flexibility to respond to these challenges according to their principles, especially regarding the identification of clergy and teachers to communicate their values of compassion in the light of truth.

Please urge your state legislators to support the restoration of the religious exemption within the MHRA and protect the fundamental right of the free exercise of religion for both individuals and institutions.

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