March 2019 | Mid-Session Legislative Update
Friends in Christ,
With the deadline for submission of new proposals in the Minnesota legislature now passed, the specific challenges and opportunities of this legislative session have been drawn into sharper focus. In this issue of One Voice, I’d like to call your attention to six of them: four we oppose and two for which we strongly advocate. Please inform your members as best you’re able.
As always, I’m happy to give presentations to congregations or pastors’ groups regarding these or other public policy matters. Just contact me at email@example.com.
HF 12: The Counseling Ban Bill (a.k.a. the “Conversion Therapy” Ban Bill)
What it is: This bill has two dimensions, both of which are very concerning on free speech and freedom of religion / conscience grounds.
The first dimension applies to counselors who are licensed by the State of Minnesota. Under this legislation, if a minor person with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria were to approach a licensed counselor seeking help in overcoming these conditions, such counseling would be declared “unprofessional” and would open the provider to disciplinary action by the State Licensing Board. No such discipline would ensue from counseling which would seek to confirm and / or support same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.
The second dimension of this bill would make it a criminal offense, under the State of Minnesota’s anti-fraud statutes, for anyone (not just professionals licensed by the State) to offer any paid services which would represent “homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness, or guaranteeing to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” Examples of such “paid services” might include the sale of any book (including the Bible), magazine, or video which would advocate for a biblical view of sexuality. It might also include any kind of conference or symposium which charges a registration fee, in which such a biblical worldview might be given voice. Needless to say, this represents a flagrant example of viewpoint discrimination and a major violation of both our free speech and religious freedom rights.
Next steps: This legislation has been introduced in the MN House and has been heard and passed by the Health and Human Services Committee and the House Commerce Committee. Next, it will move to the House floor for a vote. In the Senate, however, the bill does not have a scheduled hearing and will likely not receive one since that body is controlled by the GOP. Thus, in all likelihood, it will not find its way to the Governor’s desk this session.
We have given oral testimony opposing the bill in both committee hearings. However, this is a bill that will almost certainly return in future years, unless voters take a strong stand in opposition to it in this legislative session. Therefore, it’s vital that you contact your legislators and the Governor to make it clear that the policies contained in HF 12 are not acceptable now or in the future.
HF 2152: The End-of-Life Options Act
What it is: This is the latest version of a bill designed to legalize the intentional killing of one innocent human being (at their own request) by another, a doctor. Commonly referred to as physician-assisted suicide, this bill would allow and actually encourage doctors and society as a whole to cross a moral red line which will inevitably lead to a host of profoundly negative effects both for the individual whose life is ended and for all of us.
As Christians, of course, to commit suicide or to facilitate such an act by others represents a rebellion against the sovereignty and authority of God, the giver of life who alone has the right to determine the length of our days. As the Scriptures declare, “Do you not know that . . . you are not your own; you have been bought at a price.” (I Cor. 6:19-20)
Beyond this theological proscription, however, this proposal ushers in myriad other harmful side effects. It opens the door to coercion and manipulation of the elderly and the disabled. It threatens to compromise the trust of the doctor-patient relationship. It will expose medical providers to a wide variety of pressures, ultimately forcing many to choose between violating their own conscience and leaving the practice of medicine. It also has the power to fundamentally transform family relationships, either depriving family members of the opportunity to serve as caregivers for their loved ones or exposing those loved ones to intense feelings of regret if a family member commits suicide, indicating—intentionally or unintentionally—that they were made to feel like a burden. Indeed, these are but a few of the very predictable outcomes of a decision to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
Next steps: As of this writing, this bill has not received a hearing and, in fact, is highly unlikely to pass this legislative session because of strong opposition in the Senate. However, this is a radical proposal that will certainly be brought back year after year. Please contact your Representatives, Senators, the Governor, and the House Democratic leaders and express your deep opposition to physician-assisted suicide and HF 2152. Inform them that you stand adamantly opposed to the concept that “we get rid of suffering by getting rid of sufferers.”
HF 1140 / SF 1533: The Bill to Legalize Surrogacy for Profit
What it is: This past week, a bill was introduced into both the Minnesota House and Senate that would set a legal framework allowing establishment of a new for-profit industry whereby persons could contract the services of a female surrogate to carry an embryo to birth and purchase the baby she would produce. This is just a thinly veiled form of slavery—the buying and selling of another human being—and we stand opposed to it.
Next steps: At this point, there is no committee hearing scheduled; however, there could be one called on very short notice. If there is such a hearing, we will, of course, give testimony in opposition to it.
On an optimistic note, HF 1000 / SF 1152 is a countering piece of legislation that mirrors the pro-surrogacy bill but which prohibits all for-profit surrogacy arrangements and any provision which would allow the contracting party to force a surrogate to have an abortion. Again, please contact your elected leader and indicate your strong opposition to commercial (for-profit) surrogacy in general and to HF 1140 / SF 1533 in particular. Also express your support of HF 1000 / SF 1152.
SF 1872: The Scholarship Tax Credit Bill
What it is: This legislation was developed by Opportunity for All Kids (OAK), the Minnesota coalition supported by the LCMS that is rallying for greater parental choice in education. This bill would allow the state to issue tax credits to persons or corporations that make contributions to scholarship granting organizations (SGOs). These SGOs, in turn, would grant scholarships to lower- and middle-class parents who want to send their children to religious schools. This concept has broad popular support of voters of every political persuasion and is identical to a proposal nearly signed into law each of the past two years.
Nationwide, this type of tax credit has been judged to be a very good vehicle for removing the inequitable treatment which parents that opt for a religious education for their children have been subject to. In effect, this bill would help provide the public support that every child is entitled to receive without importing the kind of inappropriate government interference in religious schools that more direct forms of funding would invite.
Next steps: Contact your legislators and other elected representatives and urge them to support SF 1872. To do so, simply go online to oakmn.org to register to receive regular updates and receive instructions as to how to let your voice be heard. There you will also find a link to Voter Voice, which will allow you to send messages to state officials in support of SF 1872. Alternatively, you can simply click on this link: https://www.votervoice.net/OAK/campaigns/51482/respond.
SF 1609: The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
What it is: This piece of legislation would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. It is based on the scientifically proven fact that developing children can feel pain at or before this point. There is currently no limitation on abortion up to birth in Minnesota law. At this time, when the pro-abortion lobby is pushing hard to make infanticide culturally (and legally) acceptable, it is critical to stand up for the protection of children in the womb.
Next steps: SF 1609 was recently heard and passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. It will then move to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Pastors, please be sure your members are aware of the new and highly radicalized nature of recent pro-choice legislation across the country and encourage them to contact their legislators in support of this bill.
At the Federal Level: The Equality Act
What it is: This piece of federal legislation has been introduced into the U.S. House and will be voted on soon. It would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of “protected classes” in matters of “public accommodation.” Were it to pass, many harmful consequences would likely ensue, including the imposition of speech codes / pronoun mandates, loss of conscience and free speech rights by state-licensed professionals, and the loss of privacy rights for students in public schools. To view a webinar with more information on the negative impact this act would have, click here.
Next steps: Please let your federal elected representatives know you oppose the Equality Act and the companion proposal known as “Fairness for All.”
Blessings to you as you exercise your citizenship for the sake of the Gospel and the welfare of your neighbor.
Rev. Fred Hinz
LCMS Public Policy Advocate, Minnesota South and North Districts