Lansing Update
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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
September 16, 2016

  In This Update:  
  • Public Comment Period Open on HHS Mandate; Comments Needed
  • MCC Responds to State Board of Education Vote
  • The Word from Lansing Column: Opportunities for Work and its Impact on Society
  • U.S. Bishops Speak on Religious Liberty, Abortion, Migration, & Marriage This Week
  Public Comment Period Open on HHS Mandate; Comments Needed  
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Burwell v. Zubik, a case challenging the requirement that employee health plans cover contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization. This and similar cases brought by religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, argued that the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services violated their religious beliefs. The Court sent the case and all related cases back to the respective Courts of Appeals and instructed a solution be found that would both respect the freedom of conscience and allow women to obtain contraceptive coverage. The federal departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor opened a public comment period for suggestions on this solution.  

Your help is needed to send a message to the departments that there are numerous ways to satisfy the Government's objective without forcing any organization to violate sincerely held religious beliefs. The public comment period closes Tuesday, September 20.

Here are four suggestions:
  1. The Government could broaden the religious employer exemption to all religious objectors.
  2. The Government could eliminate the notice requirement and remove the triggering effect of informing insurance companies and Third Party Administrators of the religious objection.
  3. The Government could create a separate self-insured federal government contraceptive coverage plan.
  4. The Government could create a separate fully-insured contraceptive coverage plan.
While not perfect these suggestions point to the ability of the federal administration to craft a policy that obtains their policy objective without burdening religious employers.

Please send your message today.
  MCC Responds to State Board of Education Vote  

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education developed voluntary guidelines regarding learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Michigan Catholic Conference submitted public comments to the Board's initial draft in May. On Wednesday, September 14, the Board of Education approved a final version of its document by a 6-2 vote. MCC issued a statement after the vote opposing the guidance, emphasizing that while all persons are deserving of dignity and respect, learning environments should recognize the diversity of the student body, including religious beliefs, and promote tolerance for parental rights, student privacy, and the importance of family.

  The Word from Lansing Column: Opportunities for Work and its Impact on Society  
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, especially due to a lack of meaningful employment opportunities and stagnant wages. 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.  
  U.S. Bishops Speak On Religious Liberty, Abortion, Migration, & Marriage This Week  
Over the course of the week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) spoke out on a number of important issues currently facing the nation, including religious liberty, abortion, migration, and marriage.  
  • Religious Liberty: Last week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued its report: "Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties." Within that report, a statement from the commission's chairman attacked religious liberty as "nothing except hypocrisy," acting as "a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality." Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, responded to these comments, which "[paint] those who support religious freedom with the broad brush of bigotry." The archbishop continued by highlighting the strength that people of faith and religious organizations provide to America. 
  • Abortion: The USCCB responded this week to uphold and defend the Catholic Church's teaching on the dignity of all human life following an ad campaign for taxpayer funding of abortion from the so-called "Catholics for Choice." The group is not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way, and the ads reject and distort Catholic teaching on abortion, which "kills the most defenseless among us, harms women, and tears at the heart of families."
  • Migration: On September 19, the United Nations General Assembly is bringing together Heads of State and government officials from around the world as a summit meeting to discuss the large movement of refugees and migrants in the world today. The USCCB's statement this week recognized the need to continue welcoming those who come to our communities, while also helping to create conditions in other countries so that people do not feel forced to migrate.  
  • Traditional Marriage: Detroit's Archbishop Allen Vigneron, chairman of the MCC Board of Directors and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, and Buffalo's Bishop Richard Malone, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, issued a statement this week to reiterate the Church's teaching on marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
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Michigan Catholic Conference, 510 South Capitol Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48933 Michigan Catholic Conference: The Official Public Policy Voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan Phone: (517) 372-9310, Fax: (517) 372-3940,