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Minnesota’s attack on religious liberty

Will Christians be at least as resolved as the state’s transgender activists?


LGBTQ activists rally at the State Capitol in Saint Paul, Minn., on April 21, 2023. AFP/Getty Images

Minnesota’s attack on religious liberty
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In my home state of Minnesota, open religious persecution is on the docket. Those in power aim to use the coercive force of the state to tell religious institutions who they can hire. This includes churches, mosques, and synagogues as well as religious educational institutions. For all the talk about the separation of church and state today, some lawmakers want to dictate the hiring process for churches. I wish this were an overstatement, but it accurately reflects the political aims of the majority party in my state.

Last year was the first session in years where the Democrats in Minnesota gained control of all branches of state government—the House of Representatives, Senate, and the governor’s office. They didn’t waste any time. They passed a litany of bills aimed at turning Minnesota into a progressive utopia. These laws were shocking for Christians throughout the state, especially the bills addressing transgenderism.

What went largely unnoticed was the rewriting of the state’s Human Rights Act. Legislators added “gender identity” as a protected class. Unlike other protected classes, this one did not include an exemption for religious institutions. Some legislators thought this was a simple oversight and have sought to remedy it this session.

It wasn’t an oversight. It was intentional. Within the last month, both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees considered an amendment that would have added a religious exemption to the “gender identity” category. Both committees, dominated by Democrats, voted it down. One representative who opposed the amendment described the idea of religious institutions possessing this freedom as “infuriating,” “disgusting,” and “ridiculous.”

Apparently, churches hiring their pastors based on the belief that men are men and women are women is ridiculous. This is the bizarro world of Minnesota politics. Here, apparently, it is less disgusting for the state (the people with badges and guns) to coerce churches to submit to erasure of their First Amendment rights than it is to allow anyone to question the dogma of gender theory. This threat is not just an abstract idea, as at least one religious school currently faces an employment complaint under this unconstitutional new language. In Minnesota, it is supposedly “saner” to deny biological realities than to protect our most fundamental rights. History is not kind to those who use badges and guns to coerce belief and to stifle dissent.

This brazen attack on religious liberty has created a stir for the various faiths in Minnesota. It was an odd sight to see Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders speak in unison on religious liberty and then to see them all attacked by activist leftist legislators and citizens. The political dividing lines are realigning as leftists demand total submission to their dogma.

This latest attack demonstrates there is no respect for the sphere of the church from those on the political left.

What is the church in Minnesota to do? Will Christians stand up? For all the contradictions that plague queer gender theory, the people who hold that theory live with bold zealotry and confidence. They are willing to sacrifice and face scorn for their beliefs. In terms of their zeal, they put some Christians to shame.

As a local pastor and lifelong Minnesotan, I’ve been part of many efforts at our State Capitol to stem the tide. In my experience, there is no shortage of people, groups, and organizations that will line up to speak in favor of this wicked agenda. The same is not true when looking for voices, boldness, and courage in defense of righteousness. Will this latest overstep be the clarion call that finally awakens Minnesota’s Christians?

Earlier this year, I was part of a denominational meeting that considered publicly calling the State of Minnesota and its leadership to repentance. This was in response to the evils passed in the last legislative session. Sadly, the idea did not receive enough support from denominational representatives to pass. Fear, apathy, and a distorted belief in the separation of church and state stymied any potential unity. Will this new open attack motivate pastors and other Christians to action? Can evangelicals in Minnesota muster even a fraction of the courage, faith, and dedication that we see from the other side? Will we live like we take seriously our confessed faith as true?

The time has come for ministers of various denominations to formally speak on these issues. This latest attack demonstrates there is no respect for the sphere of the church from those on the political left. If government officials enforce the leftists’ gender identity legislation, our denominational squabbles will be greatly overshadowed by demands that churches hire pastors who deny the creational realities of manhood and womanhood. Your church could be sued for not hiring a cross-dressing youth pastor who denies that sex is binary.

Faithful Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, and others must temporarily set aside their differences long enough to unite in the necessary common cause to speak in unison against this proposed tyranny. If religious institutions are not free to hire as they want, then they are not free to believe as they want. This is the very freedom many Christians throughout history sacrificed to find. We cannot let it go without a fight.


Levi J. Secord

Levi is the founding pastor of Christ Bible Church in Roseville, Minn. Levi graduated with both an M.Div and a Doctorate of Educational Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Levi has written for Front Porch Republic, the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Christ Over All, and the Fight, Laugh, Feast Network.


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