Lansing Update: Grassroots Momentum for Religious Freedom Continues as Muslim Group Joins MCC Effort

In this update:

Grassroots Momentum for Religious Freedom Continues as Muslim Group Joins MCC Effort

Lawmakers are continuing to receive thousands of messages from grassroots supporters like you, urging them to include religious protections in a civil rights bill still pending before the Legislature.

Since Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) launched the action alert Feb. 13, more than 5,400 messages have been sent to House and Senate members, making this the most prolific grassroots campaign ever initiated by MCC. Nearly 2,700 people have participated, including more than 2,000 who are brand new advocates.

MCC has been advocating for inclusion of religious protections in legislation that would expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Without explicit protections for people and faith-based organizations that hold to beliefs of one-man, one-woman marriage, or to the biological differences between males and females, more faith-based organizations will be targeted for holding these beliefs, resulting in more lawsuits needed to preserve their First Amendment rights.

While there is matching legislation in both the House and Senate, the Senate version of the proposed policy — Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) — has already moved out of a Senate committee to the Senate floor. MCC testified in committee for the inclusion of religious protections in Senate Bill 4. But the committee voted to move it without religious protections, despite MCC having offered amendments and language suggestions to lawmakers.

MCC has been joined in its advocacy efforts by the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter (CAIR), as the two faith-based organizations signed onto a joint op-ed published in the Detroit News earlier this week.

The op-ed, signed by MCC President and CEO Paul Long and CAIR Michigan Executive Director Imam Dawud Walid, urged lawmakers to broaden the conversation to consider how the legislation would affect the First Amendment-protected rights of religious Michiganders.

Long and Walid argued that amending the ELCRA without religious protections will increase the likelihood of discrimination and pave the way for additional unjust litigation against persons and organizations, adding that ongoing conflict and increased discrimination can be mitigated simply by including reasonable protections for religious organizations in the bill. Similar protections have been included in every state that has expanded its civil rights law.

The op-ed noted that MCC and CAIR’s advocacy to protect religious rights is not about perceived animus toward the LGBTQ+ community, but rather because the legislation as introduced does nothing to protect religious organizations or persons from litigation in state courts.

In addition to CAIR Michigan, organizations like the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools (MANS) and Citizens for Traditional Values have joined MCC in mobilizing their members to contact their lawmakers to speaking out for religious protections.

An ice storm resulted in the cancellation of most legislative activities this week, so the Senate is now expected to take up Senate Bill 4 next week, meaning there’s still time to make your voice heard on this issue and tell lawmakers to include religious protections in the bill.

Also, many of you reading this Lansing Update may be reading it for the first time, having joined our email list as a result of taking action on this action alert to ensure religious protections in the civil rights bill. Thank you for participating and joining us!

We need every Catholic we can get to help our grassroots advocacy efforts, as there is strength in numbers. If you have friends, family, or parishioners who are not part of our Catholic Advocacy Network email list, we strongly encourage you to forward this email or send them this link to sign up!

MCC Announces Legislative Priorities in Latest Blueprint for the Common Good

With the Legislature at a standstill this week due to the weather, MCC took the opportunity to formally announce the latest edition of its Blueprint for the Common Good, its public policy priority document for the 2023–2024 session.

Approved by MCC’s Board of Directors, the Blueprint is comprised of nine advocacy principles that originate from Catholic social teaching and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Within each principle are specific policy priorities MCC brings to dialogue that occurs at the state Capitol.

In a press release issued this week announcing the Blueprint, MCC highlighted three policies it supports and will work to advance this legislative session. Those policies are gun safety, affordable housing, and providing access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and refugees.

In addition, the Blueprint reiterates that MCC remains fully committed to opposing any expansion of abortion, protecting religious liberty rights, and promoting choice in education for all of Michigan’s students and families.

The Blueprint stressed the fact that these issues and all others detailed in the document tie back to the foundational principle of Catholic social teaching: Protecting the dignity of human life.

“It is the mission of the Conference to promote human dignity from conception through natural death with care and concern for the poor and vulnerable among us,” said Paul A. Long, president and CEO of MCC, in a statement. “We look forward to building on six decades of advocacy with members of both political parties to speak on behalf of the unborn, the marginalized, the immigrant, and people of faith who bring their religious principles to the public square to serve others.”

The digital version of the Blueprint can be found here. Print copies are being mailed to parishes across the state, so check with your local parish for a print copy. Additional free print copies can be obtained by contacting the MCC offices. To read the Blueprint announcement press release, click or tap here.

Additional Hurdle for Receiving Food Assistance Eliminated Under MCC-Backed Bill

More people in need would qualify for food assistance under a Senate bill that MCC supported this week.

Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), would remove the requirement that a food assistance applicant has to pass an asset test to qualify for receiving food stamps. Currently, a food assistance recipient would have to show he or she has under a certain amount of countable assets, which includes resources like savings accounts.

MCC supports the bill in accordance with the Catholic social principle of providing preference for helping the poor, particularly when it comes to making sure people have enough to eat. The Senate Housing and Human Services Committee took testimony on the bill this week but did not take a vote.