This has been a summer of many challenges. In the midst of a devastating pandemic, communities are navigating how to safely reopen buildings, how to help families facing difficult economic conditions, how to meet the educational needs of all children, and how to ensure people’s voices are heard during a national census and a presidential election.
Throughout these challenges, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) continues to serve as the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. The pandemic has not lessened the need for this work. In fact, it has highlighted the importance of efforts to protect the dignity of the human person, to offer support for families, and to combat threats of exploitation.
At times, the fight for the common good comes with difficult losses. In July, the Michigan Values Life petition effort came to an end, which would have brought legislation before lawmakers to ban dismemberment abortion in this state. Sadly, the petition drive was deemed by the Bureau of Elections to have an insufficient number of valid signatures from registered Michigan voters. We mourn the setback in our efforts to protect the state’s women and children. Dismemberment abortion is a particularly gruesome procedure and has no place in civilized society.
However, through this difficult time, we must also take the time to celebrate the dedication of pro-lifers across the state, whose energy is strong. Countless volunteers stepped up to gather signatures at Masses, at parish festivals, and at other events around the state. Michiganders became more educated about the dismemberment abortion procedure and its brutality. And most importantly, community members joined together to send an important message: women deserve better than abortion; they deserve encouragement and support. MCC takes solace in the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” Continuing to seek His will does produce fruit. The Michigan Values Life petition drive is certainly not the end of efforts in our state to recognize the dignity of the human person. The work remains critical, so the Church and the pro-life community keep going.
On the heels of the petition drive, these summer months have also brought difficult budget discussions during a $2.2 billion shortfall. In late July, Michigan lawmakers and the governor came together to adjust 2019–2020 state expenditures, passing hundreds of millions in budget reductions, utilizing federal COVID-19 aid, and transferring money from the State’s Rainy Day Fund to complete the deficit elimination. Thankfully, the new budget offered federal relief to the tune of $500 per teacher to assist teachers in public and nonpublic schools. As the virus does not discriminate based on the type of school a person works at or attends, neither should relief efforts. MCC remains committed to advocating for the inclusion of nonpublic schools in any further assistance, especially as lawmakers continue formulating the 2020–2021 state budget and look to remedy a nearly $3 billion deficit.
MCC has also taken legal action to ensure nonpublic schools receive the COVID-19 relief they deserve, as passed by Congress. In July, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel—along with officials from eight other states—filed a lawsuit, Michigan vs. DeVos, to prevent the U.S. Department of Education from properly allocating federal CARES Act money to nonpublic schools. As the lawsuit demonstrates contempt for the will of federal lawmakers and discriminates against the more than 100,000 Michigan nonpublic school students and families, MCC joined with 37 other organizations in filing an amicus brief in the case and will continue to speak out against the lawsuit.
Staff has also been focused on opposing efforts to expand payday lending, which will exacerbate financial stress and hardship for struggling residents. While supporters claim that such legislation is needed now more than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights how devastating it would be if adopted, especially with the 132 percent annual interest rate the bill allows. The state would be better served in concentrating instead on initiatives that improve financial literacy and address poverty.
As summer turns into fall, and as other challenges arise, the Catholic Church in Michigan will continue to remain focused on the common good of all. It is MCC’s hope that through our work, we may remain faithful and open to His fruit in all we do. Join us at www.micatholic.org/can/.
The Word from Lansing is a regular column for Catholic news outlets. Through these columns, MCC outlines current advocacy issues of importance to the Conference and discusses the Catholic position and role in the political process. This publication complements the more regular updates provided by MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network. Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.