The Word from Lansing

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.

    Voting—Overcoming Obstacles to Participation and Why It Matters

    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.

    Federal Legislation Exposes Threats to Religious Liberty

    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.

    The Moral Urgency of Immigration Reform

    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.

    Elections, Faithful Citizenship, and Political Guidelines

    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.

    Restorative Justice and Juvenile Life Without Parole

    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.

    Upholding the Truth of Marriage

    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.

    Promoting Positive Alternatives to Abortion

    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.

    A Poor Church for the Poor

    February’s The Word from Lansing column focuses on Michigan Catholic Conference participation earlier this month in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington D.C., which was sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and designed to promote advocacy for policies that protect the most vulnerable in society. As staff and Catholics involved in social ministry throughout the country participated in the event, Michigan citizens also sent messages to elected officials on the importance of comprehensive immigration reform, criminal justice reform, and legislation addressing loopholes in federal law to protect taxpayer dollars from contributing to abortion. The column also focuses on the importance of remembering the vulnerable throughout the 2014–2015 state budget process.

    Greater Educational Choice is Needed in Michigan

    With the recognition of Catholic Schools Week in Michigan and across the country planned for January 26–February 1, 2014, MCC’s The Word from Lansing column this month discusses the benefits of school choice and Michigan’s need for greater opportunities for all students and parents. While Catholic schools in the state provide over 54,000 children with a challenging and faith-filled environment, the Legislature is constitutionally prohibited from pursuing school choice policies that have proven beneficial in every neighboring state and many others across the country. The column addresses the fact that school choice opportunities are necessary and that both public and non-public schools must be supported by state leaders.

    Abortion is Not Health Care

    MCC’s The Word from Lansing column this month focuses on the citizen-initiated measure, the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act, which prohibits taxpayer funding of elective abortions on the state health care exchange. Additionally the measure requires private health plans offering abortion coverage to do so through an optional rider to be purchased separately. The citizen petition signatures were certified by the Board of State Canvassers on December 2 and submitted to the Michigan Legislature.

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