Dear Majority Leader Gazelka, Speaker Hortman, and Minority Leader Daudt,
Thank you for your work to ensure that all Minnesotans voices and perspectives are heard in our state legislature. As we work for the good of all Minnesotans, we write to strongly encourage you to support legislation that we will be introducing alongside Representative Hodan Hassan. This bill makes small changes to ensure that all Minnesotans have full access to the religious freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Minnesota.
Minnesota’s students and their families reflect the continuously growing diversity of faith traditions and backgrounds that make up our state. Our laws show respect for those traditions in ensuring that school districts provide reasonable accommodations to students desiring to be excused from a curricular activity for a religious observance.
However, that policy will only be effective when parents and guardians are aware of this opportunity and how to work with educators to ensure that students can have full access to both a high quality education and to practicing their religion. SF966/HF909 provides a solution, making the simple requirement that school boards provide annual notice to parents of the school district’s policy relating to a student’s absence from school for religious observance.
In addition to the requirement of annual notice on the school district’s policy for absences for religious observance, we support giving school districts the option of considering their school community’s religious observance when adopting an annual school calendar. This flexibility does not provide a mandate to schools, but rather recognizes that school districts know their communities best and may be able to avoid absences from large numbers of students by making small adjustments to their school calendar.
We ask for your support for SF966/HF909, and to recognize the impact that these small changes can have for all Minnesotans can have the opportunity to practice their faith tradition. Minnesota is at its best when our people are secure in their employment, when communities and school boards work together as partners, and when every citizen has the ability to freely exercise their religion.