Defending Religious Liberty

The Minnesota Legislature adjourned its 2024 regular session on Monday, May 20, at midnight. This session, shorter and with fewer bills passed than in 2023, posed significant challenges to religious freedom, affecting Catholics and all people of faith. In response, Catholics actively defended their faith and promoted the common good by engaging with legislators through the Catholic Advocacy Network, making thousands of communications to legislators via calls, letters, and emails.  

Stopping Religious Discrimination in the ERA 

In November 2023, we discussed a proposed state constitutional amendment called the “Equal Rights Amendment,” aimed at protecting abortion access until the moment of birth, advancing gender ideology, and weakening legal protections for those who object to both. The language also specifically excluded protections for all Minnesotans against religious discrimination. 

Simply put, the proposed ERA was special protection for some and punishment for others. MCC worked with legislators to propose amendments to the ERA, such as including religion and ensuring women, people of faith, and the unborn would be protected. The ERA passed the House in the early-morning hours of May 19 but was stopped in the Senate due to effective advocacy by faith communities and others. 

Protecting the Rights of Churches and Religious Schools 

Another key issue this session was restoring the religious exemption from claims of gender identity discrimination in the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The MHRA has been in place for decades and serves the purpose of protecting Minnesotans from various forms of discrimination. In 1993, sexual orientation was added as a protected status, and an exemption for religious organizations was included to allow them to act in accordance with their religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation because of the acknowledgement of reasonable differences of opinion on matters of sexual identity. When legislators added gender identity to the MHRA in 2023, however, they failed to include the religious exemption.  

In response to this admittedly purposeful exclusion of the exemption, MCC formed a coalition of more than 13 organizations representing different faith communities including Christians, Jews, and Muslims. After months of persistent advocacy and negotiations by MCC and others, a religious exemption was passed by legislators and signed into law by Governor Walz on May 15, 2024. 

Stopping Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage of Abortion 

In addition, several bills mandating insurance coverage for abortion, assisted reproduction, and gender-affirming care would have forced religious institutions to fund immoral acts that do not constitute authentic healthcare. Our advocacy and public testimony helped to defeat the assisted reproduction mandate and ensured the inclusion of religious exemptions in the abortion and so-called gender-affirming care mandates, protecting the rights of faith-based organizations. Not only will these exemptions save religious employers and their employees significant money, but they also ensure that religious employers can continue to provide health insurance as a benefit without cooperation in harmful or lethal practices. 

Practicing Faithful Citizenship 

The bishops and staff of the Minnesota Catholic Conference are deeply grateful for the engagement and support of the Catholic community, as well as all those who value religious liberty. We also appreciate the partnerships we formed and renewed with other faith communities, who really came together this year to protect religious liberty. These ecumenical and interfaith partnerships bring with them diverse viewpoints and greater resources that often enhance our advocacy efforts and lead to significant progress. Over the past five months, our partnerships undoubtedly contributed to these important victories and underscored the importance of building common ground for the common good whenever we can. 

To receive a full recap of all the issues concerning human dignity and the common good that MCC staff were tracking throughout the 2024 legislative session, sign up for the Catholic Advocacy Newsletter at and subscribe to our YouTube Page here.  

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