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
December 23, 2021

  In this Lansing Update:  
  • MCC Weighs In On Religious Liberty Concerns In State Supreme Court Case
  • New Bishop Appointed By Pope Francis For Diocese Of Gaylord
  • Governor Signs Into Law Measure Promoting Organ Donation For HIV-Positive People
  • MCC Holiday Schedule & Merry Christmas
  MCC Weighs In On Religious Liberty Concerns In State Supreme Court Case  

Faith-based organizations that provide services in the public square according to their religious mission could soon face lawsuits should a new interpretation of the state's civil rights law be upheld by the courts, according to a legal brief filed on behalf of Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) with the Michigan Supreme Court recently.   

At risk is a wide range of humanitarian and charitable aid provided by Catholic and other religious agencies that assist the needy, the poor, and persons and families lacking basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. 

MCC was granted permission to weigh in on the pending case regarding the state's civil rights law. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act - which MCC supported in its approval by the Legislature and Governor back in 1976 -- prohibits discrimination based on sex, race and other factors. 

Recently, Michigan's civil rights commission issued its own interpretation of the law, ruling that the term sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The Legislature has not amended the law to say that.

The case before the Supreme Court started when a civil rights complaint was filed against wedding venue Rouch World after the business declined to host a same-sex ceremony on its property due to their religious beliefs.  Based on the Civil Rights department's new interpretation of sex discrimination, it ordered Rouch World to cooperate in an investigation against it.  

Rouch World filed suit to challenge the Civil Rights department's authority to do so.  A lower court agreed with the Civil Rights department's interpretation and found that "sex" includes discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the Supreme Court is now reviewing that decision on appeal.

MCC argues the interpretation would have consequences for religious practice, particularly those of Catholic churches, schools and charities. The interpretation could prevent Catholic institutions from providing services in accordance with their religious beliefs or choosing to hire individuals who act and live out the teachings of the Church. The Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman and that men and women are created by God with distinct biological differences.

"Religious institutions must be free to decide whom to hire, retain, discipline, promote, or discharge consistent with their religious missions," the MCC brief to the Supreme Court stated.

In addition to that, Catholic schools must be free to hire teachers who serve as models for living out the faith, and those working for Catholic charities must be allowed to carry out their charitable work in accordance with their religious principles, the brief argues.

The Michigan Supreme Court has not scheduled a hearing yet on the case. For more on the MCC's position in Rouch World LLC v Department of Civil Rights, read the full amicus brief here.

  New Bishop Appointed By Pope Francis For Diocese Of Gaylord  

The Diocese of Gaylord will soon have a new bishop, it was announced this week, after Pope Francis approved the appointment of Rev. Jeffrey J. Walsh to lead the Michigan diocese.

Bishop-elect Walsh, 56, is a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania and currently serves as pastor of two parishes there. Bishop-elect Walsh's episcopal ordination and installation as sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord has been set for March 4, 2022, at 2 p.m. in St. Mary Cathedral, Gaylord.

Upon his ordination, Rev. Walsh will join the MCC Board of Directors, comprised of the bishops of Michigan's dioceses as well as one priest, one religious sister and five laypersons. 

The Diocese of Gaylord is currently led by Apostolic Administrator and retired Bishop Walter A. Hurley, who will continue to serve in that role until the bishop-elect's ordination. Previously, the diocese was led by Bishop Steven J. Raica before he was appointed to lead the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama in March 2020.

For more on Bishop-elect Walsh and his priestly ministry, visit the Diocese of Gaylord's website.

  Governor Signs Into Law Measure Promoting Organ Donation For HIV-Positive People  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed into law a bill allowing HIV-positive individuals to receive organ donations from other HIV-positive individuals.

MCC has previously reported its support of House Bill 4521, sponsored by Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.), to provide more opportunities for organ donations and to recognize the dignity of those who are HIV-positive. 

It also will allow HIV-positive donated organs to remain in Michigan rather than requiring the organs be transported for use elsewhere, as is the current practice.

  MCC Holiday Schedule & Merry Christmas  

The Legislature will not resume session until Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. MCC will be closed for the Christmas holidays between Friday, December 24 and Friday, December 31, 2021. Our offices will reopen on Monday, January 3, 2022 at our regular switchboard hours of 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

From all of us here at MCC, have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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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,