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Lawsuit: Minnesota DOC canceled Christian rehab program for conflicting with DEI


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Alpha News

According to the lawsuit, officials said the program “directly conflicts with the diversity, equity, and inclusivity values of the DOC."
Hayley Feland
January 9, 2024

A federal lawsuit filed Monday argues that the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) violated the First Amendment when it abruptly canceled a Christian rehab program.

The voluntary program, called “Quest for Authentic Manhood,” was available to inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility–St. Cloud thanks to Anthony Schmitt, who taught the program over the course of a decade until it was canceled in 2023.

According to the lawsuit, DOC assistant commissioner Jolene Rebertus informed Schmitt via email that the program “directly conflicts with the diversity, equity, and inclusivity values of the DOC by defining manhood, or the study of masculinity, through a biblical lens of what a ‘real man looks like.’”

“Quest teaches participants about manhood through a lens of discrimination, exclusivity, gender biases and stereotypes that not only contradict the DOC’s mission of providing transformational programming, but can be hurtful to participants, their families, and victims,” Rebertus said in her email, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the cancellation of the “Quest for Authentic Manhood” program violated Schmitt’s constitutional rights and draws parallels to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the court unanimously held that Philadelphia’s refusal to refer foster parents to a Catholic agency violated the First Amendment.


Schmitt said that the DOC’s decision was shocking to him.

“Through the Quest for Authentic Manhood program at St. Cloud, we have had incredible success over the last decade, with more than 1,000 inmates graduating and moving on to a restored life in the community. I have seen countless powerful testimonies and tears shed over the last decade because of the tremendous positive impact this program has had on inmates’ lives,” he said. “I was shocked and dismayed when the DOC suddenly canceled us, and I just want to be able to minister to these men, who so desperately need support and rehabilitation.”

The DOC told Alpha News that they are unable to comment on pending litigation.

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