EXCLUSIVE: Religious freedom — and a pastor — under attack in Minnesota 

"They've crossed the line and I'm not backing down," Pastor Rob Ketterling remarked, saying he has been doxxed and faced death threats for defending religious freedom.  

Religious freedom
Pastor Rob Ketterling and his wife, Becca. (Courtesy photo via River Valley Church)

A popular pastor isn’t backing down from his effort to restore religious freedom in Minnesota, saying state legislators have “crossed the line.”

Rob Ketterling, lead pastor of River Valley Church, was a guest on Liz Collin Reports to talk about why he isn’t staying quiet.

Ketterling has been vocal at the Capitol and on the pulpit on an issue regarding the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

Until last year, “gender identity” was a part of the act’s definition of “sexual orientation.” However, Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature created a new, separate definition of gender identity last year without establishing a corresponding religious exemption. As such, religious groups now fear that they will face legal consequences for operating in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

An amendment this session would have restored protections for religious institutions against claims of gender identity discrimination. Ultimately, the amendment was voted down multiple times by Democrats.

“We’re all trying to figure out what the ramifications of this will really turn out to be, because we’ve always had that exemption for sexual attraction or different things. Churches have standards when it comes to morals, so they’ve always given us these exceptions and now it doesn’t exist. Does this mean our camp counselors can identify as anything and be in a dorm and if we neglect that and we deny it, then we’re going to be sued?” Ketterling wondered. “Or what about small groups that are women’s based or men’s based, if we deny transgender, what would we do?”

Right now, River Valley’s policy states that anyone who identifies as transgender who wants to be part of the congregation can only go to small groups that align with their biological sex.

Pastor Rob Ketterling explained in a recent sermon called “Contending for Religious Freedom” why he’s speaking out. (River Valley Church/YouTube)

“This was a surprise for everyone. It wasn’t just Christians; it wasn’t just evangelicals. It was Catholic, evangelical, other Protestant groups. It was Muslims and Jewish people that were all there saying, ‘Hey, we want this exemption for our deeply held beliefs’ and it was a resounding no from the Democrats,” Ketterling said.

“This is garnering national attention. We’ve had multiple law firms call us from all across America saying, ‘We will represent you. They may not be covering it in the news, but it caught our eyes and we see this and this is a clear violation of your religious rights,’” Ketterling said of those conversations.

In a recent sermon called “Contending for Religious Freedom,” Pastor Ketterling explained to his congregation why he’s speaking out.

“Becoming a grandfather, I realized I’m passing on my faith and what we have in our country, not only to my kids, but to my grandson and that just woke me up. Then I realized, you have to stand up for righteousness. You do,” Ketterling said.

“If I don’t stand up, I’m making our kids and our youth groups stand up in the school without anybody saying, ‘Hey, I’m with you.’ We’re having people that work in corporate America that are saying, ‘Hey, they’re forcing us to do this. Are you going to remain silent?’ I’m not, I wasn’t going to hide behind the protection of a church.

“I said, wait, if you can get us to compromise on what we believe about human sexuality and male, female, made in his image, witness bearers of who God is and being present in this world, if they can get us to compromise on that and lie about pronoun hospitality, they can get us to lie on anything.

“They’ve crossed the line and I’m not backing down,” Ketterling said.

religious freedom
Pastor Rob Ketterling, pictured here with his wife, Becca. (Courtesy photo via River Valley Church)

He said he has received a lot of support from his congregation for speaking up. However, he has faced backlash from others.

“They’ve been attacking me. We were doxed on a trans site and our cellphones are out there. My wife and I, our address. We’ve received death threats. We receive, people call us and say, ‘I’m coming to your house to murder your family.’ While I was preaching, people were sending me texts and pictures of the devil,” Ketterling remarked.

They’ve taken steps now to install new software on their phones and update their security systems.

“I thought there was supposed to be tolerance,” he remarked.

“It’s you must believe what we believe and you must affirm it and if you don’t, you’re wrong. And that’s not the America that I grew up in. I grew up in an America that you can, I could have different beliefs and I would respect yours.

“You’d respect mine and we go our ways, and I wouldn’t force you to believe mine and you wouldn’t force me to believe yours. Now, we have legislatures saying that if I don’t use pronoun hospitality, it’s not just hatred, it’s violence. How did we get there?”



Liz Collin

Liz Collin has been a truth-teller for 20 years as a multi-Emmy-Award-winning reporter and anchor. Liz is a Worthington, Minnesota native who lives in the suburbs with her husband, son and loyal lab.