Prior to the beginning of each legislative session, the board typically meets for a day long retreat to determine legislative priorities. According to board member Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, the priorities generally emerge from two main sources: the Executive Director may present options that typically originate from input from interactions with local congregations and from continued goals from previous years, as progress in any particular session can be halting depending on the political climate. Other priorities emerge directly from board members as leaders in their faith communities.

Related to JRLC's effort to forge further congregational connections and thus to educate the public on its priorities, feedback from congregants allows for a mapping of the religious and ideological topography of Minnesota, bridging the rural and urban divide to identify priorities of concern for a broader range of citizens.


Executive Director Brian Rusche testifies at the MN Tax Committee

Courtesy of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition

One example can be seen in payday lending, which Brian Rusche describes as a central issue during his term as Executive Director. Reports on concerns regarding the sudden influx of payday lenders into South Minneapolis, which had caused several congregants to become deeply in debt due to high interest rates, came from leaders within the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. JRLC researched the development of the issue and identified the legal loophole that allowed for the development of the industry. While statewide measures to pass legislation were largely unsuccessful, Rusche considers the work of the JRLC in educating the public on a local, largely unknown issue to be part of a “national movement that brought awareness in this issue that resulted in Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”


Jason Atkins (MN Catholic Conference), Rev. Peg Chemberlin (MN Council of Churches), and Brian Rusche testify on increasing minimum wage

Courtesy of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition

Once a legislative priority has been determined, the board members and Executive Director present the ideas to each organization’s board, after providing positions on issues prior to the meeting to allow for personal research, to discuss areas of focus and to gain agreement. If consensus is reached, the JRLC can then move forward in the advocacy process. According to Rabbi Grimm, board member for the JRLC and Jewish Community Relations Council, this process can be “hugely challenging” due to the political and ideological divides between members of the committee, thus requiring compromise. She states, “There’s some times when I think well this is so obvious, but well it’s obvious to me and someone else sees it differently and that’s okay”, a statement that captures the spirit of compromise and unity above all else in the JRLC1 . Though this process is complex and time-consuming, leaders of the JRLC stress that its strength of the JRLC and its interfaith work lies in the benefits of cooperation. According to Reverend Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches and JRLC board member, “once you have that kind of agreement behind an issue, that probably means that you have most of the religious community, or much of the religious community, in the state around that issue, so it’s a pretty powerful moral voice on issues” 2 .

  1. T. Grimm, personal correspondence, May 9, 2019

  2. C. DeYoung, personal communication, May 10, 2019


Decision-Making Structure of JRLC