Lansing Update: MCC Proposes Catholic Response to Gun Violence & More Legislative Updates
Posted June 9, 2023
In this update:
- A Catholic Response to Gun Violence Proposed in New Focus Publication
- MCC Warns of Overwhelming Impact of Retroactive Window Legislation
- Tougher Penalties Against Church Vandalism Supported by MCC
- MCC: Bills Limiting Speech in Counselor-Patient Settings Ruled Unconstitutional
- Crime Victim Bills Backed by MCC Clear House, Headed to Senate
A Catholic Response to Gun Violence Proposed in New Focus Publication
For the first time, Michigan Catholic Conference’s (MCC) Focus publication is addressing the topic of gun violence and proposing a Catholic response to the issue, with the hope of provoking thoughtful reflection for readers and mindful of differing perspectives about guns and gun regulation.
The latest edition of Focus — MCC’s quarterly publication that examines public policy issues through the lens of Catholic social teaching — was released this week, online at micatholic.org/gun-violence and in print.
Amidst the polarized national discourse over gun violence, Focus explains that the Catholic Church proposes a “yes, and…” approach to the conversation consistent with Catholic social teaching and supported by academic research. Catholics and all people of goodwill can embrace life-saving policies while also being mindful of the deeper systemic issues that fuel violence in society.
The spring edition of Focus introduces the story of Pat and Jeanne Damer, the parents of three daughters, two of whom survived school shootings — one at Oxford High School, and the other at Michigan State University. The family’s close encounter with gun violence prompted the Damers to join a committee at their local parish that initiated a letter-writing campaign to state lawmakers advocating for gun safety legislation.
The edition of Focus makes the case for why gun violence is an issue of widespread public concern, and why gun safety regulation is part of the conversation for addressing the violence that fuels gun deaths.
The publication includes a list of common objections to gun safety reforms for the purpose of informing dialogue among those who have differing views on gun regulation, as well as more information about gun safety legislation supported by MCC that was recently signed into law.
In addition to the online edition — which features a brief video of the Damer family sharing their story — print copies of Focus are distributed to Catholic parishes, schools, and other locations, as well as elected officials and other interested parties across the state.
We encourage you to read Focus and to share with your contacts and on social media.
MCC Warns of Overwhelming Impact of Retroactive Abuse Claims Legislation
MCC this week spoke to the overwhelming impact that proposed legislation regarding retroactive abuse claims would have on private and public institutions, while also acknowledging the importance of listening to abuse survivors and calling for the continued implementation of policies to proactively prevent abuse.
House Bill 4482, sponsored by Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos), would provide a two-year window for allowing any abuse claim from any point of time to be brought forward against any person or organization. The legislation was the subject of a House Criminal Justice Committee hearing this week, but no vote was taken.
The bill would have a broad, immeasurable impact on public and private entities, including but not limited to schools, local governments, and universities, as well as dioceses, parishes, and Catholic agencies.
As MCC and other organizations have pointed out previously, the legislation establishes scenarios making it virtually impossible for institutions or government agencies to defend claims filed against them that date back decades. The older the claim is, the less likely there are witnesses or evidence to be available to ensure a just court proceeding for all parties.
In a statement made available to media, MCC offered prayers and encouragement to those who have suffered abuse, wherever it occurred, adding that listening to survivors and their experience is important, as is understanding the difficulty of living with trauma.
MCC added that society as a whole must do better to protect every single child and vulnerable adult from the scourge and horror of sexual or physical abuse, and urged all institutions in Michigan to implement safe environment policies, training, and reporting requirements to keep children and young people safe wherever they come in contact with adults.
The Catholic Church in Michigan for decades has worked tirelessly to implement strong and effective reforms to protect children and vulnerable adults.
Additionally, MCC has been supporting legislation several sessions in a row to proactively prevent sexual abuse in medical settings, including similar bills that have cleared both the House and Senate.
Tougher Penalties Against Church Vandalism Supported by MCC
Legislation to strengthen penalties on those who inflict damage on churches and other sacred spaces gained support from MCC this week.
House Bill 4476, sponsored by Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), and House Bill 4477, sponsored by Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton), specifically makes a crime the act of vandalizing or threatening to vandalize a church or other religious space, and prescribes penalties based on the dollar amount of the destruction.
Some of the institutions listed out include churches and other sacred spaces, as well as cemeteries and other entities affiliated with the churches or other sacred spaces. The legislation specifically makes this vandalism a crime if it’s motivated by several listed factors, including religion.
In its support for the bills, MCC noted that anti-Catholicism has been present in this country since its founding, and the past three years of seen a notable increase in physical attacks and vandalism committed against Catholic churches and affiliated entities.
There have been at least 260 incidents of vandalism at Catholic churches across 43 states and the District of Columbia since May 2020, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The bills were subject to a hearing before the House Criminal Justice Committee this week but have not received a vote yet.
MCC: Bills Limiting Speech in Counselor-Patient Settings Ruled Unconstitutional
MCC shared its concerns with proposed bills in the House and Senate that could unconstitutionally limit speech in counselor-patient settings.
Similar bills in both chambers seek to ban practices or treatments by a mental health professional that seek “to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behavior or gender expression or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward an individual of the same gender.”
In a memo submitted to lawmakers, MCC outlined how the legislation singles out and silences a specific message: The possibility that one could experience change to their sexuality or live consistent with their biological sex. Such limits imposed on counseling could hamper counselors and patients from having a free and open discussion based on the patient’s desires.
MCC pointed out that court decisions have ruled that very similar regulations elsewhere are unconstitutional limits on free speech.
The House versions of the legislation — House Bill 4616 and 4617 — have already cleared a House subcommittee and House committee on party-line votes, so those bills are on the House floor.
Senate Bills 348 and 349 received testimony before the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee this week but have not been voted on yet.
Crime Victim Bills Backed by MCC Clear House, Headed to Senate
Bills to bolster support and services for crime victims, backed by MCC, cleared the House this week.
The bipartisan package strengthens protections and supports for crime victims, such as allowing a crime victim’s image to be blurred in certain court proceedings made available to the public, and allowing a victim impact statement to be made remotely, among other provisions.
The package — House Bills 4420 through 4423 — passed the state House this week in overwhelming majority votes and now head to the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee for further consideration.