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
March 22, 2019

  In This Update:  
  • Settlement Agreement "Does Nothing to Protect Foster Care Youth"
  • MCC Urges Stricter Regulations for E-Cigarettes
  • USCCB Opposes Equality Act; Reaffirms Authentic Human Dignity
  Settlement Agreement "Does Nothing to Protect Foster Care Youth"  
Private and faith-based child placement agencies collaborate with the State of Michigan to find loving and safe homes for foster care youth. Despite the successful partnership that has existed for decades, the ACLU sued the State of Michigan in 2017. In this lawsuit, the ACLU urged the State to shut down its contracts with faith-based foster care and adoption agencies and challenged the implementation of a 2015 law protecting the religious liberty rights of these agencies. On Friday, March 22, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel signed a settlement agreement with the ACLU in that case (Dumont v. Lyon). Under the settlement, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is tasked with maintaining non-discriminatory provisions in adoption and foster care contracts. The settlement also outlines that the State will end contracts with any agency who does not follow these "non-discrimination" requirements.

Michigan Catholic Conference commented today that the settlement does nothing to protect thousands of Michigan foster care children who are currently looking for loving homes. Similarly, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the law firm representing St. Vincent Catholic Charities and adoptive families, issued a statement after the settlement was made public: 

"The Michigan Attorney General and ACLU are trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies. The result of that will be tragic. Thousands of children will be kept from finding the loving homes they deserve. This settlement violates the state law protecting religious adoption agencies. This harms children and families waiting for forever homes and limits access for couples who chose to partner with those agencies."
  MCC Urges Stricter Regulations for E-Cigarettes  
Over the last several legislative sessions, Michigan lawmakers have considered ways to regulate e-cigarettes and prohibit their sale to minors. This week, the Senate and House Regulatory Reform Committees both considered legislation that would regulate e-cigarettes as a new category of vapor products, rather than as tobacco products: Senate Bills 106 and 155 and House Bill 4164. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) issued a joint letter to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee when testimony began last week, along with other medical and cancer prevention groups, expressing concerns with this type of regulation. According to the letter, "separating e-cigarettes from the definition of tobacco products sets the stage to exempt these products from evidence-based tobacco control laws."

MCC appreciates the intent of both the Senate and House bills, especially in attempting to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors. In MCC's view, however, lawmakers should instead take the opportunity to implement stronger protections for children by regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products. The Senate bills, sponsored by Senators Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) and Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit), passed the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee by an 8-0 vote and continue now to the full Senate. House Bill 4164, sponsored by Representative Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), passed the House Regulatory Reform Committee by a 10-3 vote, with two representatives abstaining. Before the measure can be considered by the full House, it must first be approved by the House Judiciary Committee.
  USCCB Opposes Equality Act; Reaffirms Authentic Human Dignity  
Earlier in March, two similar measures were introduced into the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives called the Equality Act (H.R. 5 and S. 788). The proposed legislation adds the new terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the definition of "sex" in federal civil rights laws. This change would have wide-reaching impacts on health care, women and girls' legal protections, charitable services to needful populations, schools, personal privacy, athletics, free speech, religious liberties, and potentially, parental rights. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote a letter to both chambers, expressing concerns that instead of "offering meaningful protections for individuals [who identify as LGBT]...the Equality Act would impose sweeping regulations to the detriment of society as a whole."

Stressing their desire to work toward social inclusion without divisiveness or harm to the common good, the U.S. Catholic bishops emphasized to members of Congress that "we readily stand with you, and are willing to assist you, in developing compassionate and just means to eradicate unjust discrimination and harassment from our country."

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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,