Conference supports measures on gun safety, housing and driver's licenses, while safeguarding human life, religious liberty
LANSING — The Michigan Catholic Conference will work with legislators on both sides of the political aisle to pursue "common sense" policies that protect human life and dignity during the 2023-24 legislative session, the conference said in the release of its latest policy blueprint.
The conference, which represents the public policy voice of the state's seven Catholic dioceses, released the latest edition of its "Blueprint for the Common Good," a biennial document that outlines its legislative and policy goals at the start of each new legislative session in Lansing.
Among the highlights of this year's policy goals are gun safety measures; access to affordable housing, especially for low-income individuals; and policies that would allow undocumented immigrants and refugees to obtain driver's licenses. The conference released its advocacy blueprint Feb. 22.
The new legislative session in Lansing began Jan. 12. For the first time in more than 40 years, Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the state's governorship.
In a news release announcing the blueprint, the conference said all three policies have received its support during previous legislative sessions, adding it remains fully committed to policies protecting unborn life, religious liberty and school choice.
"It is the mission of the Conference to promote human dignity from conception through natural death with care and concern for the poor and vulnerable among us,” said Paul A. Long, president and CEO of Michigan Catholic Conference. “We look forward to building on six decades of advocacy with members of both political parties to speak on behalf of the unborn, the marginalized, the immigrant, and people of faith who bring their religious principles to the public square to serve others.”
This week, the conference voiced its concern over a measure that would expand the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to cover sexual orientation, gender identity and expression without vital protections for religious organizations and individuals who hold biblical beliefs about the realities of marriage and human sexuality.
The conference has also criticized efforts to overturn the state's 1931 abortion ban, despite the passage of Proposal 3 in the fall, which included access to abortion in the state's constitution.
The "Blueprint for the Common Good" outlines a framework for the conference's advocacy over the two-year session, divided into nine advocacy principles informed by Catholic social teaching. The conference's board of directors includes the seven bishops who lead Michigan's dioceses, five laypeople, a woman religious and a diocesan priest.
Highlighting this year's blueprint are policies that would pass "common sense" gun safety legislation after shooting tragedies at Oxford High School in 2021 and Michigan State University last month claimed several lives and wounded several others.
“Common sense gun control policies that include locking away a firearm to protect children or other vulnerable persons from harm or even death are necessary in Michigan,” said Long, in a statement MCC issued after Gov. Whitmer's recent State of the State address, in which she called for legislation on gun safety measures.
Long added the Michigan Catholic Conference has supported policies in the past that would require gun owners to safely and securely store their firearms, and penalties against gun owners who fail to do so, particularly if a child gains access to the weapon and uses it to inflict harm.
The conference also said it is supporting policies that would invest $1.6 billion into improving access to affordable housing and transportation for the state's vulnerable, using surplus funds from the state's budget and federal dollars to build additional housing units for low-income and middle-class homebuyers, calling housing a "basic human right" and citing the rapidly rising costs for homebuyers and renters.
“Having the security to live in a stable, healthy home is a basic need and is crucial to work, to go to school and to protect your family,” said Tom Hickson, vice president of public policy and advocacy for MCC, in a press call promoting the proposal last year.
Additionally, the conference reinforced its support for measures that would provide access to driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants awaiting documentation, arguing such licenses are necessary in many cases for basic living.
"MCC’s support for the policy is rooted in the belief that it upholds immigrants’ and refugees’ dignity by allowing safe and legal transportation to work, to take children to school and church, and to drive to the grocery store and doctor, activities on which all citizens of the state participate and rely," a news release from the conference said.
On Feb. 28, Michigan Catholic Conference staff joined approximately 160 people during a "Drive Safe Advocacy Day" rally at the state capitol sponsored by Strangers No Longer, a Catholic advocacy group, calling for state legislators to approve access to driver's licenses for immigrants in Michigan. After the rally, attendees met with several legislators to discuss bills that would address the issue.
Other topics addressed in the "Blueprint for the Common Good" including improving and expanding end-of-life care, protecting religious liberty for faith-based service providers, institutions and individuals, funding for initiatives that promote school choice, expanding access to health care, efforts to protect the environment, criminal justice reforms that eliminate life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted as adults, and strengthening the relationship between the state and nonprofit child placement agencies, especially those with a faith-based mission.
The full "Blueprint for the Common Good" can be found on the Michigan Catholic Conference's website. Long, the conference's president, also addressed the blueprint in his latest "Word from Lansing" column on Detroit Catholic.