On Thursday, June 17, U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously 9-0 in Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia that faith-based agencies providing child placement services in the public square with fidelity to their religious teachings are constitutional exercises and, as such, may continue providing those services within their faith tradition. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) praised the Court's protection of religious liberty rights and is grateful for the work of faith-based agencies, Catholic Charities in particular, for their Gospel-mandated mission to exercise their 'love of neighbor' toward poor and vulnerable persons. In a statement, MCC wrote in part:
"The Court's ruling in Fulton is a reminder that, as the history of this state and nation commenced, religious orders and missionary clergy began formation of what is now, aside from the government, the country's largest provider of health care, education, child placement services, and humanitarian aid for refugees, the homeless and hungry, and many other vulnerable populations. Faith-based aid providers and employees carry out their works of charity and love because it is compelled by faith and service toward others. Religiously affiliated adoption and foster care providers are leaders in their communities and the best in their field. For over 80 years, their services have been provided in Michigan with collaboration from state agencies to help foster children move into permanent homes and families. The unanimous ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which should support upholding the Michigan child placement policy enacted in 2015 that protects religious liberty rights and diversity in child placement, recognizes that Catholic humanitarian aid and child placement providers are good for communities."
Since 1976, members of both political parties have supported the Hyde Amendment and other federal policies that have prevented taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions. Recently, President Biden released his annual budget recommendations, which did not propose a renewal of the Hyde Amendment and similar provisions. If passed, this change would allow billions of taxpayer funds to begin contributing towards elective abortions. Throughout the month of June, Michigan Catholics have signed a petition, urging Congress to respect the conscience of the American people and to protect mothers and babies by renewing the Hyde Amendment. MCC wrote about the petition effort in its latest The Word from Lansing column.
It is not too late to sign the petition at www.NoTaxpayerAbortion.com and to share it with family, friends, and neighbors. Thanks in advance.
This weekend, the nation will recognize Juneteenth, which commemorates the events of June 19, 1865. On that day in history, approximately two thousand Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to announce the abolishment of slavery. While President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier in January 1863, declaring all the slaves within the Confederate States freed, its immediate implementation was difficult in places remaining under Confederate control. Juneteenth did not mark the end of slavery in the United States; the Thirteenth Amendment officially outlawed the practice. However, the National Museum of African American History and Culture calls Juneteenth "our country's second Independence Day" and an opportunity to recognize "the value of never giving up hope." Michigan Catholic Conference has supported legislation in Lansing from Senator Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday. While the measure has not cleared the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee yet, MCC expects to see action on the measure soon. The U.S. Congress passed a measure this week with bipartisan support that would recognize the day as a federal holiday. It was later signed into law by President Joe Biden.
On Tuesday, June 15, the Michigan Senate voted 35-0 for a supplemental education budget bill that includes expenses for the current fiscal year (which ends on September 30, 2021). Michigan Catholic Conference was pleased to see that the measure appropriates almost $87 million from the Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools (EANS) program-funding that assists nonpublic schools with COVID-related expenses-that passed Congress in December 2020. It also includes an additional $93 million in new EANS funding passed by Congress in March of this year. As MCC has written in previous updates, EANS funding would cover expenses such as supplies for sanitation, personal protection equipment, and technology upgrades to enable remote learning. Although the money was received from the federal government several months ago, the Michigan Legislature is required to appropriate the funds through a budget bill in order for them to be disbursed. The House of Representatives is expected to approve the measure next week, which would then send the measure to the governor's desk for her consideration.
Currently in Michigan, individuals within certain professions are required by law to report any suspected cases of child abuse or neglect that they hear about or see. These "mandatory reporters" include law enforcement officers, members of the clergy, school counselors or teachers, school administrators, physicians, nurses, physician's assistants, dentists, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, social workers, and regulated childcare providers, among others. House Bill 4880, sponsored by Representative Roger Hauck (R-Mount Pleasant), would add physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, and athletic trainers to the list of mandatory reporters. Several organizations testified on behalf of the bill in the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee this week, although it has not yet received a vote. MCC supports the change.
Around the country, a number of local governments have passed "sanctuary city" policies, which vary but generally limit the extent to which law enforcement and other government employees can assist the federal government on immigration matters. Several Michigan cities-including Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Ypsilanti-have their own local versions of this policy, stating that the local police department is prohibited from soliciting immigration status from individuals who seek police services, report crimes, or are witnesses. However, a person's immigration status can be asked for if it is relevant to the investigation of a criminal offense, or when law enforcement is processing an arrested person.
This week, the House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee heard testimony on two bills that would prohibit local ordinances and policies from including any such "sanctuary city" language. House Bill 4197, sponsored by Representative Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.) would impact cities, villages, and townships and House Bill 4539, sponsored by Representative Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), would impact counties. As it has for the fourth legislative session in a row with similar legislation, MCC testified to raise several concerns with the legislation as proposed. Staff pointed out that the bill further blurs the line between local law enforcement and a federal responsibility, saying that "if a local government is violating or not meeting the federal requirements for cooperation, the U.S. Department of Justice should be investigating, not the Michigan Legislature." Additionally, this legislation could discourage individuals from reporting crimes because of their immigration status, which would have a negative impact on public safety. No votes have yet been taken on the bills.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Representatives Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) and Scott VanSingel (R-Grant) have been fighting for passage of legislation that would provide additional eligibility or flexibility for certain educational assistance offered to Michiganders. House Bills 4055 and 4056 would allow scholastic achievement to be considered as an alternative to achieving the requisite score on a standardized test for purposes of scholarship eligibility for the 2020-2021 academic year. The measures would also grant undergraduates in private colleges and universities for the 2020 spring term and the 2020-2021 academic year to have two extra semesters of eligibility for the Tuition Grant program. The Tuition Grant Program provides financial assistance to low-income families and students attending one of Michigan's independent colleges and universities. In April, the Michigan House of Representatives widely voted in favor of the measures, and this week, the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee followed suit. MCC supports these measures, as well as other efforts to assist students, and will continue to advocate for their passage before the full State Senate.
The full Michigan House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 4521 this week, which deals with specific circumstances for organ donation. The measure, introduced by Representative Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.), would allow for individuals who are HIV-positive to receive an organ donation from another individual who is HIV-positive. The bill also specifies that recipient of the organ must be notified and informed about the donor testing HIV-positive prior to the donation, and both the recipient and the person responsible for the transplantation must agree in writing to the use of the organ. The House also approved House Bill 4762 by a 107-3 vote, a measure that is sponsored by Representative Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian) and prohibits discrimination against a disabled person from receiving or giving an organ transplant. The measures are supported by MCC.