Testimony in Opposition to S.F. 37 - ERA

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Chair Long and Members of the Committee:

We oppose the ERA for many reasons, but the one which I want to point out today that should be troubling to all Minnesotans is the lack of protection against discrimination based on religion. The practical effect of this omission is that it communicates as a matter of our fundamental law that protecting people from religious discrimination, whether they practice a religion or not, is not a compelling governmental interest, and that claims of anti-religious bias or discrimination by state actors will receive less judicial scrutiny than claims for example, based on gender identity or expression.

Almost 80 percent of Minnesotans identify as religious, and Minnesota has a very diverse religious population, with some of our counties being among the most religious diverse in the nation. According to a recent Gallup poll, almost half of all Americans claim that religion is very important to them, that is, it is a core part of their identity.

These facts underscore the importance of including religion, that is, because, unlike some protected classes meant to serve small minorities, it provides protection for all Minnesotans, including the religiously unaffiliated, and because anti-religious bias of one type of another is an unfortunate reality--whether between religious and ethnic groups or by state actors who are ignorant of the law related to religious exercise and religious establishment, or by those who profess a rigid secularism.

For example, according to the FBI, anti-religious hate crimes increased 30 percent between 2021 and 2022. Religious-motivated incidents make up 17.3 percent of hate crimes: https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes/hate-crime-statistics

Nationwide, there have been 324 incidents of violence and vandalism since 2020 against Catholic sites. But that pales in comparison to bias incidents against Jews, which were about triple that number in just 2022. Locally, anti-Muslim incidents against mosques are not infrequent.

Pew research indicates that there is not one religious group in the United States for whom a majority of Americans has a somewhat or very positive opinion, with Jewish Americans having the highest at 35 percent. By contrast, between 20 and 25 percent of those polled have somewhat or very unfavorable views of Latter-day saints, Muslims, atheists, and evangelical Christians.

Religion should be included in this ERA as it is in most civil rights ordinances. Doing so is consistent with both policy and core American values. In fact, 87 percent of voters agree that tolerance of other’s beliefs and the freedom for Americans to live according to their values are core to being American. And another 82 percent of voters agree that First Amendment Rights of free speech and religion are critical to the nation.

Including protections for discrimination based on a person’s religion ensure that each of our own biases and prejudices do not compromise the well-being of others whose beliefs and practices our different than our own. This is especially important in the context of the policies and practices of state actors, which have to be implemented by our fellow citizens who are not immune from bias. Thank you for your consideration.

Contact: Jason Adkins, [email protected], 651-227-8777

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