Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that could land someone on a state bias registry if they engage in constitutionally protected forms of free speech claiming that COVID originated in a Chinese lab or for expressing support for “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling on transgender issues.
State Rep. Harry Niska (R) asked State Rep. Samantha Vang (D) during a debate on the new bill whether either of those two instances could wind up with someone being put in a state government database that records bias. She supports the bill, House File 181, that lawmakers are considering. It would record alleged biased speech incidents even if they aren’t considered a crime.
“If a Minnesotan writes an article claiming or arguing that COVID-19 is a Chinese bio-weapon that leaked from a lab in Wuhan, and someone reports that article to the Department of Human Rights, is that something that the Department of Human Rights should put in their bias registry under your bill?” Niska asked Vang.
She responded by asserting that while not all incidents are considered violent or criminal, this sort of rhetoric is “bias-motivated” therefore “it can be considered a bias incident.”
Last night, the full anti-First Amendment agenda of the DFL trifecta was on display in the Minnesota House. They want a government database of unpopular speech, such as whether you love J.K. Rowling or theorize that Covid-19 was leaked from a lab.
I offered an amendment to fix… https://t.co/FZjpH614WM
— Harry Niska (@HarryNiska) April 26, 2023
Niska commented that he found Vang’s answer “very troubling.”
He went on to ask the Minnesota Democrat if someone wearing an “I love J.K. Rowling” shirt would find themselves added to the database.
“If a Minnesotan is wearing a t-shirt that says ‘I love J.K. Rowling’ and someone sees that and reports them to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights as an example of gender identity or gender expression bias, is that something that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights should put in this bias database?” he asked Vang.
Vang deflected that question and said it would be better answered by attorneys. She added, “I’m not going to say yes or no to that question.”
Our constitution and rule of law are foundational to our way of life. I could not support the DFL’s omnibus bill today because of its provisions that undercut our fundamental Constitutional rights, like a government speech registry. pic.twitter.com/R6MywjBxp6
— Harry Niska (@HarryNiska) April 26, 2023
The bill was introduced in January and would allow individuals to report perceived bias-related incidents such as alleged slurs and verbal attacks that would fall outside of hate crimes that are compiled annually by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, according to the St. Cloud Times.
The bill could also pose a threat to religious freedom, according to Republican State Rep. Walter Hudson.
“It seems very clear, based upon their focus on motivation, that they’re more concerned about what’s going on in people’s heads, which is protected speech, and that’s thoughtcrime,” he told Fox News Digital in March during an interview.
“It very much presents a direct threat — a chilling effect, at the very least — to normal, common Christian doctrinal biblical expression; or for that matter, all the Abrahamic faiths, because there’s not one of them that goes along with this gender ideology in its orthodox form,” he pointed out.
“It’s a very insidious and conniving way to get the camel’s nose under the tent of expanding the scope of government scrutiny of speech beyond crimes and assault,” Hudson stated.
Each alleged “bias” incident would include information about the perceived offender and victim “relevant to that bias,” according to the law.
Hudson said he’s concerned about the language of the bill, which encompasses not just race but also gender identity and gender expression.
The bill is replete with the term “actual or perceived” identity, he asserted.
“So the intention of whoever is being accused of exhibiting bias is irrelevant,” Hudson contended.
Perhaps an example would help.
Earlier in testimony, Commissioner Lucero offered one.
A person on the side of a road gets mean things yelled at them by a passing car. It makes them sad.
That's the sort of thing they want "documented and tracked."
— Walter Hudson (@WalterHudson) January 18, 2023
“The only thing that matters is how the person making the report feels,” he noted. “If the person making the report feels as though they have been the victim of an incident of bias, then they have been the victim of an incident of bias. And we’re going to create a database of all of these subjective, arbitrary, whimsical feelings that people have had, not anything objective or tangible at all.”
“I don’t believe that there’s anywhere else in the United States where government is documenting incidents that are not crimes in an effort to try to profile communities as being more hateful than others,” Hudson claimed, adding that the law he expects to pass resembles legislation one might find in Canada or the UK.
“There are other countries, like our neighbors to the north, that are further along in this agenda,” he concluded. “So it’s not even a slippery slope argument. It’s looking across the fence and not wanting to go there.”
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