On January 20, 2017, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court will swear in a new president. Great attention will be focused on President Donald Trump and his new administration as they begin to work on issues facing the nation. The Word from Lansing column for December from Michigan Catholic Conference highlights why religious liberty and the freedom for religious organizations to serve others should be an early priority in his presidency.
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.
In early November, Colorado voters legalized assisted suicide and joined a handful of states that allow for the practice. While Michigan banned assisted suicide in 1998, conversations about so-called “Death with Dignity” measures remind of the need to remain committed to end-of-life care that is truly compassionate and respectful of the human person. The November column of The Word from Lansing discusses Catholic teaching on assisted suicide, which undermines the medical profession, leaves all vulnerable, and devalues the human person.
Frustrated or tired of the 2016 election? While many Michiganders are, voting and political engagement matter. Through these avenues, individuals can contribute to the creation of a better world, and people of faith have the opportunity to promote the common good at all levels of government and draw attention to the needs of the vulnerable in society. The Word from Lansing for October highlights why Catholics should head to the ballot box with a well-formed conscience on November 8.
The celebration of Labor Day at the beginning of this month brought attention to the dignity and sense of identity that work brings to individuals. At the same time, the day also highlighted the real economic struggles individuals and families are experiencing. The Word from Lansing for September examines the current status of employment in Michigan, the impact of work on the life of the family, and the efforts that are needed to build a more just economy.
In July, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the formation of a task force to engage critical issues such as race relations, economic opportunity, restorative justice, mental health, and gun violence. Addressing these issues, especially in light of recent shootings, requires an openness to dialogue. This month’s column for Catholic newspapers highlights the need for all people to create a culture of life and speak out against violence.
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.
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.