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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
July 10, 2020
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • Lawsuit Discriminates Against Nonpublic School Students
  • USCCB Welcomes SCOTUS Decision Preserving Religious Freedom
  • Michigan Dual Enrollment Expansion Signed into Law
  • SCOTUS Ruling Recognizes the Church's Right to Choose Own Leaders
 
  Lawsuit Discriminates Against Nonpublic School Students  
 
This week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and State Superintendent Michael Rice announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education, seeking to withhold needed pandemic relief from Michigan students that attend nonpublic schools. The lawsuit targets an Interim Final Rule from the Department that guides how CARES Act funding is distributed to public and nonpublic schools. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) decried the announcement and its discriminatory action against nonpublic school students:

"Michigan Catholic Conference fully supports using federal aid, as the U.S. Congress intended and approved, to assist both public and nonpublic schools in keeping students across the state safe. Michiganders have seen throughout the past few months that the virus does not discriminate; neither should the government or any of its elected or appointed officials in the distribution of COVID-19 aid. The lawsuit filed today demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about nonpublic schools and those who attend them. It shows contempt for the intentions of federal lawmakers who sought to assist all schools and all students. And, most disturbingly, it shows utter disregard for more than 120,000 Michigan students and their families simply because of the school they attend."
 
  USCCB Welcomes SCOTUS Decision Preserving Religious Freedom  
 
The Little Sisters of the Poor is an order of women religious whose mission is "to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself." In recent years, they have been forced to spend time in court, defending their community against attempts to impose cooperation with activities that go against their faith beliefs. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the religious freedom of the Little Sisters and through a 7-2 vote, ruled in favor of the religious organization this week. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee commented on the ruling following the announcement:

"This is a saga that did not need to occur. Contraception is not health care, and the government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place. Yet even after it had, there were multiple opportunities for government officials to do the right thing and exempt conscientious objectors. Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify, to operate in accordance with the truth about sex and the human person. Even after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience. The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation that is committed to building a culture of life. They care for the elderly poor. They uphold human dignity. They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. The government has no right to force a religious order to cooperate with evil. We welcome the Supreme Court's decision. We hope it brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith. Yet, considering the efforts we have seen to force compliance with this mandate, we must continue to be vigilant for religious freedom."

MCC is grateful to the Little Sisters for defending their freedom to serve, all while continuing their vital work with those in need. The Conference is also grateful for the tireless dedication of Becket Law, a public interest law firm who defended the sisters in this case.
 
  Michigan Dual Enrollment Expansion Signed Into Law  
 
Many public and nonpublic students across Michigan participate in dual enrollment opportunities, which allow them to obtain college credit and vocational training as high schoolers. Courses that are eligible for dual enrollment include those not offered by the school or those not available for a student due to scheduling conflicts. Currently, all courses must be offered during the school year. This week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bills 4546-4547 into law as Public Acts 130-131 of 2020, which would allow students to take a dual enrollment course when their high school is not in session (summer), if that course is approved by the school. MCC supported the measures, which were sponsored by Representatives Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian) and Ben Frederick (R-Owosso).
 
  SCOTUS Ruling Recognizes the Church's Right to Choose Own Leaders  
 
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the consolidated cases of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel on Wednesday, July 8. These cases involved the right of Catholic schools to choose teachers who will teach and model the Catholic faith, without government interference. By a vote of 7-2, the Court preserved the ability of the schools to make their own personnel decisions. The USCCB praised the ruling this week:

"Education is a central aspect of the Church's mission. Indeed, teaching is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. James schools continue the Catholic tradition of offering Christian education. As institutions carrying out a ministry of the Church, Catholic schools have a right, recognized by the Constitution, to select people who will perform ministry. The government has no authority to second-guess those ministerial decisions. We welcome the Supreme Court's decision, which rightly acknowledged this limit on state authority. This decision means that the Church can continue to serve her neighbors with integrity." 

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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, publicpolicy@micatholic.org