Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
Last week, Pope Francis visited the United States, drawing the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. During his seven days in the country, he ate with the homeless, visited with Catholic schools students and immigrants, and blessed and greeted prisoners in a correctional facility. Pope Francis also met with President Obama, U.S. Congress, and the United Nations to bring a message of peace, cooperation, and hope to the political dialogue. Throughout his visit, he highlighted the dignity of the human person, including the poor and the immigrant, emphasized a concern for the environment and protection against a throwaway culture, promoted the importance of religious liberty, and spoke about the beauty and goodness of marriage. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offers video on demand of all the papal events, as well as text of his speeches and homilies from Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. More information is found at www.usccb.org.
The House Criminal Justice Committee approved legislation this week which would make it a criminal offense to intentionally coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion against her will. Testimony on House Bills 4787 and 4830, sponsored by Representatives Amanda Price (R-Holland) and Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton), highlighted the need for the legislation. One woman spoke about how she told a doctor she felt forced into having an abortion by three people in her life when she was only 17. As mentioned in last week’s Lansing Update, MCC supports the bills, which now continue to the full Michigan House and await further consideration.
Around the country, a number of local governments have “sanctuary city” policies, which vary but generally limit the extent to which law enforcement and other government employees can assist the federal government on immigration matters. Two Michigan cities, Ann Arbor and Detroit, have their own local versions of this policy, stating that the local police department is prohibited from soliciting immigration status from individuals who seek police services, report crimes, or are witnesses. Status can be solicited if it is relevant to the investigation of a criminal offense, or when processing an arrested person.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony on Senate Bill 445, sponsored by Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), which would prohibit local ordinances and policies from including any such “sanctuary city” language. In addition, the bill also requires revenue sharing payments to be withheld from any community with a “sanctuary city” policy. All local governments would be required to provide instruction to their officials of the state statute and would also require annual notice to the legislature of the number of individuals reported to the federal government. MCC staff testified on this matter and raised several concerns with the legislation as proposed. Staff pointed out that the bill further blurs the line between local law enforcement and a federal responsibility. MCC was also concerned that this legislation could discourage individuals from reporting crimes because of their immigration status. Staff contended that law enforcement in “sanctuary cities” still cooperate with federal immigration officials and that the legislation may not be necessary. There was no action taken on the legislation, and the bill sponsor indicated that he was working to make some changes. More details will be reported as they are available.
This week, Michigan Catholic Conference opposed Senate Bill 437 in the Senate Energy and Technology Committee. The bill, sponsored by Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek), would preserve the 10% cap on individuals choosing to obtain their power from an alternative energy provider rather than a regulated utility. Non-public schools have saved over $1 million because of this option since energy choice began in Michigan in 2000. The legislation, however, would not allow any new customers to join the waiting list for choice (capped at 10% since 2008), would not allow a customer to return to an alternative provider once they left the choice market (which is currently allowed), and would require three years notice for those choosing to return to the regulated utility. These provisions would effectively eliminate the choice market. No vote was taken during the committee hearing. A similar bill is being debated in the House Energy Committee. MCC will continue to monitor both bills.
On Wednesday, September 30, Governor Rick Snyder announced his appointment of Joan Larsen to the Michigan Supreme Court. Larsen, a law professor at the University of Michigan, received the appointment this week following the resignation of Justice Mary Beth Kelly earlier this summer. She will join Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justices Richard Bernstein, Stephen Markman, Bridget McCormack, David Viviano, and Brian Zahra on the bench.
This Sunday marks the beginning of Respect Life Month in Catholic churches around the country. During this month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is raising awareness about human life issues and introducing new informational materials for parishes about those issues. The 2015–2016 materials discuss a number of topics, including assisted suicide, end-of-life care, sterilization, abortion, poor prenatal diagnosis, and disabilities. This year’s theme for Respect Life Month is Every Life is A Gift. Learn more at http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/.
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