In June, Governor signed the 2016–2017 state budget into law, including $2.5 million to reimburse non-public schools for compliance with state health and safety mandates. Michigan Catholic Conference supported the funding throughout the budget process as a way to ensure that all students across Michigan, regardless of the type of school they attend, are cared for and protected. This week, Governor Rick Snyder asked the Michigan Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of the mandate funding before October 1, 2016. Staff welcomes the decision, which will provide clarification on this important policy. The Word from Lansing column for July outlines why such funding is beneficial for Michigan students.
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.
Between October 2014 and September 2015, the Michigan Department of Transportation offered almost 89 million public transit rides, including 4.3 million rides for elderly passengers and 8.4 million rides for passengers with disabilities. In each county across Michigan, offering alternative transportation options helps keep individuals connected to the community and the services they need, especially those who are most vulnerable. Research has shown that without adequate transportation access, low-income patients and those with disabilities are more likely to have difficulty accessing health care. This month’s The Word from Lansing column for Catholic newspapers highlights the importance of public transportation and its ability to connect individuals to health care and employment, among other aspects. The column also mentions the economic benefits public transit can have for households. According to the American Public Transit Association, households who regularly use public transportation can save more than $8,000/year on average. Michigan Catholic Conference covered this topic in more depth in its July FOCUS called Transportation, Community, and the Common Good.
In May, Pope Francis asked Catholics to join with him in prayer for the dignity of women to be respected in all aspects of life. He also urged individuals to condemn sexual violence against women. Unfortunately, too many in Michigan struggle against sexual and domestic violence in their lives, both women and men. In 2014, the Michigan State Police reported 3,016 victims of sexual assault, with women accounting for 97% of the victims, and 91,147 victims of domestic violence, with women accounting for 71% of the victims. This month’s column for Catholic newspapers, The Word from Lansing, focuses on recent bipartisan legislative actions to address sexual assault and domestic violence. These measures, supported throughout the legislative process by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), have the tools to assist victims, better protecting their privacy and holding those who commit such offenses accountable for their actions.
Each month, Michigan Catholic Conference’s President and CEO Paul Long writes a column for Catholic newspapers about a current issue of interest to Catholics across the state. This month’s The Word from Lansing, however, is a special edition piece, written by another MCC staff member who recently traveled to Panchgani, India. While there, she participated in a forum on just governance and working with the marginalized, as well as visited a local convent and school run by the Catholic Daughters of the Cross. This month’s piece is about her experiences in Panchgani and the importance of listening to and loving one’s neighbor. During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has continued to highlight ways to listen to the needs of those who are vulnerable or ignored in society, and he has called for all people of goodwill be an example of mercy and love to those in the community around them.
Each year, Michigan lawmakers make tough decisions regarding where available funding should be directed in the state budget. The Michigan House and Senate are currently working on compiling their budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2017 (October 2016–September 2017) after receiving Governor Snyder's recommendations in early February and hearing testimony from citizens, state departments, and other relevant groups. This month’s column for Catholic newspapers, The Word from Lansing, highlights the importance of examining budget decisions based on their impact on human life and dignity, the most vulnerable in society, and the common good. The column also highlights the importance of subsidiarity, or addressing solutions at the appropriate level of society, and the role each person has to play in practicing one's faith during this Year of Mercy.
February is Black History Month. During these upcoming weeks, it is important to honor African Americans who have contributed to the building of a better society, as well as to reflect upon the larger issues of race and diversity. These issues have played a pivotal role in the United States throughout history and continue to influence the nation today. This month’s The Word from Lansing, Michigan Catholic Conference’s column for Catholic newspapers, first outlines the impact of black saints and African Americans on the U.S. Catholic Church. Institutions like the Knights of Peter Claver, Xavier University of Louisiana, and the National Black Catholic Congress provide three examples of how black Americans are leading and serving others with their faith daily. Additionally, the column highlights policies pursued by Michigan Catholic Conference and the U.S. Catholic Church, especially during the 1960s, to promote civil rights and contribute to a culture of justice, peace, and inclusion.
In the wake of the recent fiftieth anniversary of The Declaration on Christian Education and the approaching celebration of Catholic Schools Week from January 31–February 6, The Word from Lansing column this month articulates the value of faith-based education. While changes in education, especially in relation to technology, have impacted the way knowledge can be accessed and shared, the purpose of education as a vehicle for academic and social growth remains the same. Catholic education additionally is aimed at helping students recognize the gift of faith and teaching them to serve their community. As lawmakers discuss the best ways to meet the educational needs of Michigan residents, Michigan Catholic Conference continues to advocate for policies that allow parents educational options for their children and provide all children access to a quality education, regardless of what type of school they attend.
War and violence in Syria and the Middle East have displaced millions from their homes. As countries around the world are looking at ways to assist refugees, there has also been a growing concern about meeting security concerns in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. Pope Francis, while recognizing the difficulties the crisis poses to governments and other nations, has spoken about the importance of seeing the human face in the refugee crisis and finding ways to be welcoming to those in need. The Catholic Church has long been an important partner with the federal government to handle refugee resettlement, providing services like picking refugees up from the airport, finding them safe and affordable housing, providing English as a second language classes, and offering financial literacy and employment services. Michigan Catholic Conference’s latest The Word from Lansing column highlights the importance of dialogue about refugee resettlement in the United States and the role the Catholic Church will continue to play in these efforts.
In October, a bipartisan package of bills to reform the juvenile justice system was introduced in the Michigan Legislature. These reforms seek alternative ways of considering juvenile crime and rehabilitation, as too often the current system treats juveniles as adults in regards to sentencing. MCC’s monthly The Word from Lansing column for Catholic newspapers draws attention to the issue of juvenile justice, with emphasis on the differences between children and adults, the impact of evidence-based programming on recidivism rates, and Pope Francis’s words on rehabilitation while visiting a correctional facility in Philadelphia. More information on the topic may also be found in Reforming Juvenile Justice in Michigan, Michigan Catholic Conference’s most recent FOCUS publication.
Throughout October, Catholic churches across the country are celebrating Respect Life Month to draw attention to the worth of every human person. The theme this year is “Every Life is a Gift,” reminding all that their inherent worth cannot simply be reduced to their skills or level of productivity (Cardinal Sean O’Malley). During his visit to the United States last month, Pope Francis spoke about the dignity of all persons, especially those on the margins or considered disposable. The Word from Lansing column this month delves further into the idea of finding life as a gift, even in the midst of profound struggles. In addition, Michigan Catholic Conference offers a few ideas of how to promote and care for human life.