In this issue of Lansing Update:
- MCC Calls for Religious Freedom in Child-Placement Services
- ‘The Issues, The Candidates and Your Vote 2006’ Headed to Parishes
- Conference Seeks Support for Foster Care Families
Michigan Catholic Conference this week continued its defense of religious freedom as the House Family and Children Services Committee passed legislation that protects faith-based child placement agencies from unnecessary state intervention. The measures would provide conscience protection for those agencies that contract with the State of Michigan and operate under a faith-based mission statement.
MCC released the following statement in support of the bills:
“It is the belief of the Michigan Catholic Conference that faith-based adoption agencies can and should be assured their constitutional right to religious freedom, and this legislation helps to guarantee such a right is reflected in state law,” said MCC Vice President for Public Policy Paul A. Long. “As the First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides for the free exercise of religion, and the Michigan Constitution in Article 4, Section 4 reads ‘The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his religious belief,’ the State of Michigan has a constitutional obligation to protect the religious freedom of those adoption agencies which operate under a faith-based mission statement.”
House Bills 5908 and 5909, sponsored by Representatives John Stahl (R-North Branch) and Scott Hummel (R-DeWitt), respectively, now await consideration from the full House of Representatives.
Parishes across the state this coming week will find in their mailboxes Michigan Catholic Conference’s biennial election publication “The Issues, The Candidates and Your Vote 2006.” The issue is printed within the Conference’s Focus essay series.
According to the issue’s introduction: “Certainly, the catalog of political issues for which the Church advocates is substantial, not only in number, but also in terms of how each public policy elevates the moral fiber of the human community. This Focus essay is intended to assist the Catholic faithful in developing a voting conscience, based on the principles of Catholic social teaching, that seeks the development of a culture of life while working for the day when justice and peace shall ultimately prevail.”
Subject areas addressed in “The Issues, The Candidates and Your Vote 2006” include: Human Life, Religious Freedom, Economic Justice and Fiscal Issues, Children and Families, and Education and Health Care. Each topic contains church teaching on various issues and concludes by asking the Catholic voter how their candidates stand on those issues of importance to the Church.
As Focus is intended to help educate parishioners—pastors, priests and pastoral administrators are encouraged to order as many copies as they would like, free of charge, to help raise awareness within their parish of the concept of Faithful Citizenship and the issues for which Catholics are called to consider in an election year.
Private foster care agencies in Michigan have not received a wage increase in over 10 years, and Michigan Catholic Conference is encouraging members of the Department of Human Services Appropriations conference committee to act quickly on a raise.
While the state Senate has approved an increase of some $4.4 million for the Department of Human Services to raise the daily reimbursement rate from $18.48 to $21, the House of Representatives has failed to include such a measure. These funds are used to pay for recruitment, licensing, supervision, training and support of foster parents. Members of both parties and both chambers will soon decide the fate of the raise in a recently assembled conference committee.
Michigan Catholic Conference is asking Catholics across the state to take a moment to contact their legislator to encourage help for those who help others. The Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network has been updated for citizens who reside in a conference committee members’ district to send a message urging the increase. Those not living within a members’ district are still encouraged to call their legislator, as both chambers must support the committee report for the budget to be finalized.
Members of the DHS Appropriations conference committee include:
- Senator Tom George (R-Kalamazoo)
- Senator Bill Hardiman (R-Kentwood)
- Senator Shirley Johnson (R-Troy)
- Senator Martha Scott (D-Highland Park)
- Representative Scott Hummel (R-DeWitt)
- Representative Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw)
- Representative Rick Shaffer (R-Three Rivers)
- Representative Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor)