FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Lansing)—Policies that protect the ability for faith based organizations to serve the general public in that organization’s faith tradition should be recognized by state law Michigan Catholic Conference stated today in announcing its advocacy priorities for the 2013-14 legislative session. In addition to protecting constitutional religious liberty rights for faith based entities, especially in health care and child placement, Michigan Catholic Conference will also continue to support legislation that excludes abortion coverage in health care plans and any federal/state health care exchange created through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Michigan Catholic Conference’s advocacy agenda was approved in December by its Board of Directors and is being released this week through FOCUS, a periodic publication distributed to all Catholic parishes, schools, institutions and other locations and individuals across the state. The Conference’s advocacy agenda falls into eight categories and is developed from a concern and interest for policies that impact the common good and moral fiber of the State of Michigan. Recently, matters pertaining to religious liberty and constitutional rights for faith based entities have become more critical for the Conference than in previous years.
“Catholic and other religiously based institutions have for decades provided excellent service in the fields of health care and child placement, and those agencies’ ability to continue to serve the public in their faith tradition is a priority for Michigan Catholic Conference,” said Tom Hickson, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy. “The sad reality is that, despite the work these institutions accomplish for citizens of the state, especially poor and underprivileged children and families, efforts are underway by hostile entities to close faith based institutions solely because of their religious teachings.”
Legislation that would have acknowledged conscience rights for faith based child placement agencies and health care organizations made progress in the previous session and are likely to be addressed again this session. Also last year a measure that would have excluded abortion coverage in any Michigan health plan or that which is to be created under federal health care reform was vetoed as part of healthcare modernization legislation. The abortion exclusion policy is allowed under PPACA and has already passed in numerous other states.
“For nearly 25 years Michigan has prohibited tax-payer funded abortion and since the passage of Proposal A in 1988 the abortion rate has been cut in half from previous levels,” Hickson said. “There is no justifiable reason why any tax-paying citizen in Michigan should be forced unwittingly to pay for another person’s abortion.”
Below is a detailed listing of public policy issues that are of interest to Michigan Catholic Conference in the categories of Religious Liberty, Human Life and Dignity, Children and Families, Health Care, Education, Economic Justice and Regulatory Policies, Restorative Justice and Immigration:
- The rights of faith-based providers and all individuals to conscience protections in the delivery of services,
- The equal application of the law to all persons and institutions regardless of their faith, and
- Opposition to insurance regulations mandating coverage for abortion, or contraception, or sterilization.
Human Life and Dignity
- State initiatives that provide alternatives to abortion and assistance to pregnant women,
- Measures to limit abortion and promote the safety of women,
- Regulations on human embryo research, and
- Upholding the constitutional ban on the death penalty and the statutory ban on assisted suicide.
- Reimbursement to non-public schools for state required mandated services such as health and safety
- Requirement that all public school districts have open enrollment policies.
- Policies that seek to improve the quality of public education
- Mandatory consultation between public school districts and the non-public school districts located within their jurisdiction regarding the appropriate distribution of federal program dollars. Equitable participation in federal programs should also continue in districts that are undergoing reform efforts,
- Protection of non-public schools from excessive regulation,
- Preservation of the Michigan Tuition Grant Program, and
- An end to the state constitutional ban on aid to non-public schools.
Children and Families
- Upholding the constitutional definition of marriage,
- Policies that protect the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family,
- Amending Michigan’s no-fault divorce laws.
- Protection of health coverage for low and moderate income individuals and families,
- Appropriate Medicaid funding to ensure adequate coverage for recipients and payments to providers,
- Legislation that prohibits abortion funding in all health plans, and
- Opposition to legislation that threatens the institutional integrity of faith-based providers.
Economic Justice and Regulatory Policies
- The allocation of scarce budget resources to preserve essential services for vulnerable persons,
- Affirmation of the recognized right to exercise religious conscience in the provision of publicly-funded services,
- Maintenance of the tax-exempt status for not-for-profit organizations,
- Affordable housing for low and moderate income families and individuals, and
- Affordable and accessible transportation options for low and moderate income workers.
- Adequate and professional legal representation to all accused individuals regardless of economic status,
- The right of faith-based providers in the delivery of services to incarcerated individuals, regardless of citizenship,
- Reforming and enhancing the provision of health care services provided in Michigan prisons, including end of life care,
- A comprehensive approach to prisoner rehabilitation and re-entry programs that includes continuing education, adequate personal identification, transportation, housing, and employment assistance,
- Sentencing guidelines and parole practices that reflect an individual’s potential threat to society, including amending Michigan’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes impacting juveniles and certain drug offenses, and
- Elimination of life without parole for juveniles convicted as adults.
- Uphold the human dignity of all persons and work against any injustice which would compromise the dignity of immigrants, and
- Promote and give priority to the reunification of families.
As Michigan Catholic Conference is primarily a state-based advocacy organization, federal issues will be addressed in collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Only when the USCCB has taken a position on an issue will the MCC engage with the Michigan congressional delegation. Among the many pressing and critical issues addressed by Congress, the following are of significant, immediate concern:
- Efforts to overturn the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires all employers to add objectionable services to health benefits offered to employees,
- Legislation that extends full legal protection to individuals and institutions regarding conscience rights in the field of health care and all employment decisions,
- Comprehensive immigration reform that, among additional policies, promotes family unity, and
- Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
While some of the policies mentioned above may be addressed this legislative session, it is likely that additional policies of interest to the Conference will come forward that may not be included in this list. Michigan Catholic Conference staff will evaluate those policies based on whether or not they promote the common good and take action as deemed necessary.
Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.
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