Michigan Catholic Conference today is applauding the Michigan House of Representatives for passing several bills that protect religious liberty rights for citizens and faith-based entities across the state. Creation of a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, conscience protections for faith-based child placement agencies, and school attendance records that respect religious holidays all passed the House this afternoon and now await consideration from the State Senate. “For the House of Representatives to pass out these important policies today indicates the level of respect that lawmakers have for religious liberty,” said Tom Hickson, MCC Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy.
Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Tom Hickson made the following comments this morning after the House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act: “The committee’s approval is a most welcome first step; it is now incumbent upon the full House to pass Speaker Bolger’s bill quickly to allow for the Senate to address this critical policy as soon as possible,” said Hickson. “A Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act is good for tolerance and diversity, it is good for individual and religious liberties, and it is for the common good of society.”
In order to promote religious liberty and conscience rights, and to help encourage diversity in the public square, legislation introduced today by Speaker Jase Bolger to create a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act, House Bill 5958, is needed now more than ever, said the President and CEO of the Michigan Catholic Conference. "In the name of tolerance, religious organizations and individuals are not being tolerated,” said Paul A. Long, Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO.
On Thursday, November 6 a three judge panel in Cincinnati ruled 2-1 to uphold the 2004 voter-approved Michigan Marriage Amendment as constitutional. The majority opinion from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a lower court decision in Michigan, and also finds constitutional traditional marriage amendments in the states of Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Michigan case was defended by the office of state Attorney General Bill Schuette, which Michigan Catholic Conference supported through an amicus (friend of the court) brief that was filed back in May. Following the Circuit Court’s ruling, Michigan Catholic Conference released a statement saying “Today’s ruling is a joyous occasion for many communities and families across the state that have sought to protect the traditional definition of marriage.”
Michigan Catholic Conference today offered its appreciation for the state’s effort to curb the practice of human trafficking as Governor Rick Snyder signed into law this morning nearly two dozen bills that seek to restrain this modern day form of slavery. The signing of the bills is a culmination of nearly two years of conversation and work that sought to uphold and defend human dignity by creating new protections and services for survivors of human trafficking. “Human trafficking is an affront to the dignity of the human person, and vulnerable women, men and children deserve greater protection from its harm,” said Rebecca Mastee, Michigan Catholic Conference Policy Advocate. An event that witnessed Governor Snyder sign the bills into law took place today in Troy, Michigan at Walsh College with Michigan Catholic Conference staff in attendance.
“We are blessed to have Bishop Raica and his many talents, keen insights and invaluable experience join with his brother bishops, religious and lay persons at the MCC Board of Directors,” said MCC President and CEO Paul A. Long. “With deep appreciation for his service both overseas and as a priest in the Diocese of Lansing, Bishop Raica will be instrumental toward helping to guide the work of the Michigan Catholic Conference in its mission to promote sound public policy for the common good of all and to administer benefit programs for the Catholic Church in Michigan. As a longtime friend and collaborator of the MCC, we wish Bishop Raica prayerful best wishes for his Episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Gaylord and look forward to his service to the Church in the Province of Detroit.”
His Eminence Edmund Cardinal Szoka, former Archbishop of Detroit and Chairman of the Michigan Catholic Conference Board of Directors from 1981–1990, died last night at the age of 86. "We mourn the loss of a dedicated shepherd," said current Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, who had served as a priest under Cardinal Szoka in the 1980s. "For sixty years Cardinal Szoka gave himself totally to his priestly service of Christ and his Church. He has gone home to the Heavenly Father with our prayers. May the Lord give him the reward of his labors." Cardinal Szoka oversaw the Vatican City State under both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He was made President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State in 1997, and president of the Vatican City State in 2001. Funeral arrangements for Cardinal Szoka are still pending. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Requiescat in pace.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller vs. Alabama ruled mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional. Earlier this year, Michigan lawmakers prohibited the mandatory sentence going forward, but did not address the issue of retroactivity. Today, the Michigan Supreme Court declared that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision does not apply to those currently serving life without parole for a crime committed as a juvenile. Michigan Catholic Conference issued a statement in response, calling for the Legislature to pass a measure that would allow those serving the sentence the chance for a parole hearing during their lives. “Our position is driven by the need to balance compassion and protection for the victims with the opportunity for offenders to rehabilitate their lives, which should be the goal of the corrections system.”
Michigan Catholic Conference made the following statement today after the United States Supreme Court held in the Hobby Lobby case that closely-held corporations cannot be required, under federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act protections, to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health benefit plans: “The impact of the HHS mandate and the administration’s ‘accommodation’ policy, however, still looms large for many Catholic and other religious organizations that do not meet the government test of a ‘religious employer.’ We express hope that non-profit cases related to the HHS mandate, such as that of the Michigan Catholic Conference and Little Sisters of the Poor, secure a favorable outcome from the federal courts in a manner that upholds and protects the first amendment right to religious liberty.”