Democrats lambast people of faith, block protections for religious institutions

Democrats "want religious groups to be forced to adhere to the state's beliefs about gender," said Rep. Harry Niska.

On Thursday, Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey, introduced an amendment to remedy this situation. Rep. Brion Curran, DFL-Vadnais Heights, expressed her unbridled rage.(Minnesota House Info/YouTube)

A group of left-wing Democrats lambasted people of faith Thursday in a Minnesota House of Representatives committee hearing. Blocking an amendment that would continue longstanding protections for religious institutions, Democrats rejected pleas from Minnesota’s religious community.

For decades, Minnesota statute has allowed religious organizations and associations to refrain from hiring individuals who do not match their faith traditions. For example, current state law ensures that private Christian schools cannot be forced to hire teachers who are gay, lesbian, Muslim, etc. However, Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature put a new term in state law during the 2023 session which complicates that: “gender identity.”

When Democrats introduced this term, state law was not adjusted to make sure religious institutions can still decline to hire someone whose “gender identity” is in opposition to their faith.

On Thursday, Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey, introduced an amendment to remedy this situation. Amending a bill on the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Rep. Niska wanted to ensure that religious groups would not be forced to hire individuals in direct violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs (i.e. transgender and nonbinary people).

Given the established protections for religious institutions, Rep. Niska assumed this complication was an oversight by Democrats. However, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, D-Roseville, told Rep. Niska, “I can say as a legislator it was not an oversight.”

Representatives from Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, and Islamic institutions testified in favor of Rep. Niska’s amendment. Expressing a desire to retain their autonomy as religious groups, the testifiers asked legislators to support their fundamental rights to religious liberty.

“Parents naturally desire to have their children taught in an environment that aligns with their values and convictions,” said Dan Beckering, a school official with Southwest Christian High School in Chaska. “Faith-based institutions like my school cannot accomplish their mission if they do not have the autonomy to make governance and hiring decisions that are firmly aligned with their religious beliefs.”

Reverend Frederick Hinz, representing hundreds of congregations and schools aligned with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said, “the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has always considered it crucial that our leaders be deeply and personally committed to the mission and values of our church, living them out in their personal lives, including matters of sexual identity.”

Zaheer Baber, president of the Islamic Center of Minnesota, told committee members that the current situation “marginalizes people of faith by suggesting that what was held to be the common inheritance of men and women in the family is somehow discrimination.”

In response to these statements, multiple Democrats lashed out at the testifiers and the idea of religious institutions maintaining their autonomy.

Non-binary Rep. Brion Curran, D-Vadnais Heights, expressed her unbridled rage, saying, “This is a direct attack against the trans and non-binary communities.” Speaking for the transgender and non-binary people of Minnesota, Rep. Curran said, “I’m here to say that we do exist, and we are sitting in this room right in front of you.”

With an angry tone and shaking hands, Rep. Curran continued to insist that she was in the room, saying, “If you don’t believe I am here, who is speaking to you right now?” The Ramsey County legislator also claimed transgender and non-binary people have existed since the beginning of time.

Additionally, transgender Rep. Leigh Finke, D-St. Paul, participated in the verbal barrage against freedom of religion.

“We don’t want you to discriminate against us,” the St. Paul legislator said. “Trans kids are in your schools. 100%, every single one of your schools. I want you to know that they can hear you. They heard you say that you should be legally allowed to discriminate against them.”

Rep. Luke Frederick, D-Mankato, told the testifiers that it was “hard” to listen to them and said he wouldn’t participate in their “hatred.”

“What’s happening is the faith community is being marginalized right now,” said Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover. Stating that religious liberty is a foundational part of America, Rep. Scott said Democrats were “trying to erase religious freedom in the United States of America in the State of Minnesota.”

Rep. Walter Hudson, R-Albertville, agreed, commenting on social media that “there is no religious liberty” in Minnesota anymore. He also released a video outlining how “Minnesota Democrats have nullified the First Amendment.”

Democrats voted down Rep. Niska’s attempt to ensure protections for religious institutions by a vote of 8-5. After his amendment was defeated, Rep. Niska put out a statement, saying, “The Walz administration and DFL majority today made clear that this was intentional and they want religious groups to be forced to adhere to the state’s beliefs about gender.”

“Progressive legislators have revealed that they believe they can trample on religious freedom by claiming it is in opposition to the interests of one particular group. That’s not how this works,” Moses Bratrud, director of strategy for the Minnesota Family Council, told Alpha News.

“Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions, and it includes everyone, and excludes no one. We should all ask our legislators in St. Paul to disavow the comments of Reps. Curran, Finke, and Frederick, who believe religious freedom is nothing but ‘hate’ and ‘bigotry.’”


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.