Inside this issue
  Pregnancy Support Services Benefit Families and Society  
  The Church frequently reminds us that we are to care for all of God's people, especially the weakest and most defenseless among us. Pregnancy support services provide care and protection for some of our society's most vulnerable members by offering assistance to women throughout their pregnancies and as they welcome their children into the world. Florida is home to numerous pregnancy help centers, many of which receive funding assistance through the Florida Pregnancy Care Network. 

Senator Rene Garcia (R-Miami), a champion of the Pregnancy Care Network in the Florida Legislature, recently visited Heartbeat of Miami, a pregnancy resource organization in his district, where he learned firsthand the benefits of supporting pregnant women in need. Pregnancy help centers, which may or may not be faith-based, believe in the sanctity of life, promote life-affirming decisions, and can boast tremendous success rates. Heartbeat of Miami, for example, finds that 85% of women they see are abortion-minded at first, but 92% choose life! 

How do Florida's Pregnancy Help Centers do it? Through love and service. Typical services include pregnancy and childbirth education, counseling, referrals for other services, material support, and infant care and parenting classes which can extend throughout the baby's first year of life. The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to advocate for funding for these centers.


  Cathedral School of St. Jude Welcomes Lawmaker for Meeting with Parents of Scholarship Students  
  A Catholic legislator and his spouse returned to the educational roots of their three children when they visited the Cathedral School of St. Jude October 1 in St. Petersburg. Representative Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) and his wife Maureen participated in a roundtable discussion with scholarship program parents, Father Joseph Waters, rector of the Cathedral Parish, Ross Bubolz, principal of the school, along with other guests.

The meeting concluded with a tour of the pre-kindergarten to 8th grade school. The tour highlighted how the faculty and staff view their mission as involving entire families, and not just their children, in efforts to instill virtues and deepen relationships with Christ.

Read more about Representative Ahern's visit here.


  U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Unanimous Jury Case  
  On October 13, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in Hurst v. Florida regarding Florida's capital sentencing practices. SCOTUS will consider whether Florida violates their 2002 decision in Ring v. Arizona which found that a jury, and not a judge, must find that a defendant qualifies for the death penalty. After Ring, every state, except Florida, amended their statutes to require a unanimous finding of aggravating circumstances. 

Additionally, almost every state amended their statutes to require a unanimous jury recommendation of death. Florida is one of only three states in the country that allows someone to be put to death based on a non-unanimous recommendation of jurors (Alabama requires a 10-2 supermajority jury vote while Florida and Delaware only require a simple majority vote of 7-5).

In anticipation of the 2016 legislative session, two bills have been filed that would remedy these concerns. SB 330 (Altman) and HB 157 (Rodriguez, J.) require: 
  • A jury unanimously determine the existence of aggravating circumstances 
  • Jurors be unanimous in recommending the death penalty 
While Florida's Catholic bishops do not support the use of the death penalty, SB 330 and HB 157 improve our state's capital sentencing process by encouraging more thoughtful deliberation among jurors and ensuring a more reliable sentencing process.
ACTION: Please send a message to your Florida state senator and representative to urge that SB 330 and HB 157 are taken up for consideration and passed.


  Catholic School Students Open Florida Cabinet Meeting  
  Neither the light rain nor the 1.3 mile walk from their school to the state capitol dampened the spirits of a group of 4th grade students from Trinity Catholic School in Tallahassee. The students were invited to open the September 29 meeting of the Florida Cabinet by leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Cabinet members include: Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putman. "You did a great job," exclaimed Governor Scott as the students concluded the Pledge and exited the Cabinet room to head back to their classroom. Trinity School has been providing Catholic education in Tallahassee for more than 60 years.  


  Pastor Protection Act Passes First Committee in Florida House  
  During committee meetings leading up to the January 12 start of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, HB 43 by Rep. Plakon (R-Longwood) was passed by the Civil Justice Subcommittee (9-4). The bill provides that churches or religious organizations, or individuals employed by these entities, including clergy, may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, facilities or goods for related purposes if such action would violate sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill protects these entities and individuals from certain legal actions, penalties, or government sanctions.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision that redefined marriage to accommodate same sex couples, religious freedom certainly requires protection in the face of so many uncertainties under the law. Layers of protection in law can be helpful, especially if they stave off frivolous litigation. The FCCB is hopeful that the Florida legislature will enact robust protections for religious and moral convictions related to marriage. Such protections especially need to be defined for individuals and agencies licensed by the State of Florida to provide various services, such as foster care and adoption.

HB 43 will be heard next by the House Judiciary Committee. Companion measure SB 110 by Senator Bean (R-Jacksonville) waits to be heard by its first committee of reference.


  Join Us for Catholic Days at the Capitol, February 16-17, 2016  
Catholic Days at the Capitol provides the opportunity to put your faith into action and effect positive change in Florida's laws. Help strengthen the presence of Catholic values in the public square by joining with Floridians from across the state to advocate for laws that protect and defend human life and dignity. Your participation in this event can give a voice to some of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in our state and help promote the common good for all of Florida's residents. 

Catholic Days activities include:
  • A legislative briefing on policy issues affecting human life and dignity
  • Pre-scheduled meetings with lawmakers
  • A luncheon for Catholic Days participants, Florida's bishops and legislators
  • Group photos of each diocesan delegation with their bishop
  • Tours of the current and historic capitol buildings
  • 41st Annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated by the bishops of Florida to pray for those working in the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government
Registration forms and contact information for diocesan coordinators are available on the FCCB website at Pre-Registration is required.

Make the trip. Make a Difference.


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October 20, 2015

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Words of Wisdom

"Legislative activity is always based on care for the people."

-- Pope Francis
Address to US Congress
September 24, 2015



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