Lansing Update: July 18, 2014

  1. Catholics Push for Compassion and Security for Migrant Children
  2. U.S. Senate Narrowly Blocks Anti-Religious Liberty Measure
  3. MCC Comments on Last Week’s Juvenile Life Without Parole Ruling
  4. New Video on Charity and Justice Available

Catholics Push for Compassion and Security for Migrant Children

Thousands of unaccompanied migrant children have been crossing over the American border, mostly from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, in search of better lives, away from the poverty and violence in their home countries. Debate has arise on how best to handle the children and the situation, and on Monday, July 14, Bishop Joseph Cistone of the Diocese of Saginaw joined with other faith leaders to call for protection and support for migrant children in need:

“We can understand the levels of frustration on the part of people regarding the inability of the government to establish a comprehensive immigration policy. While people of good will may hold differing opinions about the causes of this crisis and the legislative means to appropriately address the question of immigration, as Christians, we must be concerned for the safety and well-being of the vulnerable children involved. And so, I call upon all people of faith and good will to focus on the needs of these children who, in their innocence, come to us seeking safety.”

On Thursday, July 17, Marygrove College in Detroit called for action [Link no longer available —Ed.] from President Obama to protect these children, offering up its own resources to provide education, shelter, and other assistance for them. Michigan Catholic Conference has an op/ed on this topic in the Detroit Free Press today, which speaks to the importance of treating these children with the compassion and respect that they deserve and urges Americans to go beyond political differences on these issues. Click here to read MCC’s latest The Word from Lansing.

U.S. Senate Narrowly Blocks Anti-Religious Liberty Measure

On Wednesday, July 16, the U.S. Senate voted against considering measure would have reversed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. S. 2578, the so-called Protection of Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, would also have negated the right of employers, insurers or employees, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or any other federal law, to opt out of federally mandate coverage. The legislation needed 60 votes to move forward in the legislative process and only received 56 votes. Director of Government Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Jayd Henricks, had the following to say after the vote:

“While the outcome of today’s vote is a relief, it is sobering to think that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, would vote for a bill whose purpose is to reduce the religious freedom of their fellow Americans. We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less.”

MCC Comments on Last Week’s Juvenile Life Without Parole Ruling

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional in Miller v. Alabama, and back in March, the Michigan Legislature eliminated its mandatory sentence in Michigan law going forward. The decision still left questions, however, about the issue of retroactivity. On Tuesday, July 8, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that those who previously received the sentence before the enactment of the new law were not eligible for any reconsideration of their sentence or opportunity for a parole hearing. MCC staff issued the following statement last week regarding the decision:

“This decision is disappointing. We call upon the Legislature to pass a measure that will allow for juveniles sentenced to a life term before the Miller decision to have the opportunity for a parole hearing at some point during their sentence. Our position is driven by the need to balance compassion and protection for victims with the opportunity for offenders to rehabilitate their lives, which should be the goal of the corrections system. Research data and legal opinions have proven there are significant cognitive development differences between juveniles and adults, which is what Miller clearly stated.”

For more information on this issue, read MCC’s FOCUS on the topic.

New Video on Charity and Justice Available

Michigan Catholic Conference has a new video up on its YouTube page that outlines the importance of charity and justice and promotes the Catholic Advocacy Network. As members, you know that the Network is an important way of sharing your values with elected officials and staying updated on current issues. Please take a few minutes to share it with your friends and family.

If you haven't done so already, please join the Catholic Advocacy Network to receive regular public policy updates—including Lansing Update—via email.