The topic of religious freedom has been debated throughout the Lame Duck session, especially during consideration of measures that would create a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act and enact conscience protections for faith-based child placement agencies. Unfortunately, time ran out before these measures could be voted on in the Senate. MCC will continue to make them a priority in the 2015-2016 legislative session, as examples of individuals and agencies living out their beliefs in their daily work demonstrate the contributions faith makes to society, both in Michigan and around the country. This month’s The Word from Lansing addresses the value of greater protections of First Amendment freedoms.
The Word from Lansing is a regular column written by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) staff 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 Michigan Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network.
With the November elections completed and the newly elected officials not beginning their terms until January, the Michigan Legislature has entered its “Lame Duck” legislative session. November’s The Word from Lansing column outlines the impact of the elections and the characteristics of the next two months, as lawmakers seek to accomplish remaining priorities before the end of the 2013–2014 session. Since Michigan is a full-time Legislature, any bills that have been introduced these past two years could be considered during this time. Michigan Catholic Conference staff will be looking out for measures, such as the recently introduced Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that impact significant priorities of the Church, such as religious liberty, economic justice, human life, education, families, and restorative justice.
On Sunday, October 5th, parishes and dioceses began promotion of the annual Respect Life Program, a month long series of events to highlight human dignity issues and to distribute materials developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). This year’s Respect Life Program specifically emphasizes topics such as advanced directives and end-of-life care, commercial surrogacy, and abortion and its connection to poverty. Through its teaching on these and other life issues, Catholic Church emphasizes the importance of standing up for all life, from conception until natural death. The Word from Lansing column for October delves into the Catholic teaching on human life and its relation to the public realm and the November elections.
In August, the State of Michigan held its primary election to determine the candidates that will appear on the November 4th ballot. During this election, only eighteen percent of the registered Michigan voters cast their vote. As elected officials make decisions that impact issues such as human life, poverty, jobs, marriage, and immigration, it is important for Catholics to make sure their voice is heard in the during the political process. This month’s column addresses obstacles to voting and offers some helpful resources for Catholics as they register to vote and choose their candidates and ballot positions. More resources related to the November 4th election will also be available on the Michigan Catholic Conference website starting October 1st.
The United States has long protected religious freedom, allowing members of all faiths to participate in the public realm. This month’s The Word from Lansing column discusses federal legislation, the so-called Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, that would prohibit employers, insurers, and employees from opting out of federally mandated health coverage due to religious objections. This measure would negate the progress made by the recent Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which upheld the religious freedom of closely-held corporations. The article also highlights the response of the U.S. Catholic Church to this legislation and other threats to religious liberty.
In light of thousands of unaccompanied minors recently fleeing from areas of extreme poverty and violence to come to the United States, this month’s The Word from Lansing column focuses on the importance of policies that address family reunification and the root causes of migration. While the Catholic Church teaches that the nation has the right to secure its borders and enforce its laws, action must be taken to address a failing immigration system in a comprehensive way and respect the dignity of all human persons, citizen or foreigner. In 2011, the Michigan bishops released a statement on immigration and the guidelines for reform.
With the Michigan Legislature on its summer recess, campaign efforts have increased as candidates in Michigan seek a variety of public offices at the local, state, and federal level. On Tuesday, August 5, primary elections will be held throughout the state in order for voters to choose candidates for the November 4 general election. This month, Michigan Catholic Conference’s The Word from Lansing column discusses the importance of faithful citizenship and the process of evaluating candidates carefully through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching. Additional materials to help guide Catholic institutions and individuals through the political process include FOCUS: The Issues, The Candidates & Your Vote 2014 and Election-Year Guidelines for Catholic Parishes and Institutions.
The Michigan Supreme Court is currently considering three cases regarding the sentence of life without parole for juveniles, a topic that was addressed in MCC’s most recent FOCUS publication. This month, Michigan Catholic Conference’s The Word from Lansing column also highlights the history and Church teaching regarding the sentence. While legislation passed earlier in 2014 eliminates the mandatory sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole, questions still remain about those who received the sentence before the law was enacted.
In light of the recent U.S. District Court decision to strike down Michigan’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, Michigan Catholic Conference’s The Word from Lansing column this month focuses on the true meaning and purpose of marriage. The case continues now in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH, and a stay has been temporarily granted while the case is being considered further, placing the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment back into effect. Michigan Catholic Conference, on behalf of the Catholic bishops of Michigan, will continue to support the State’s efforts to defend marriage.
Michigan Catholic Conference’s The Word from Lansing column this month highlights a program that recently began in the State of Michigan, called Real Alternatives. This program connects women in unexpected pregnancies with support and services and promotes positive alternatives to abortion. The program has recently been implemented here after helping hundreds of thousands of women in states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Clients can receive counseling, parenting classes or adoption assistance, clothing, diapers, and formula to ensure the well-being of both mother and baby.