Every person is made in the image of God and has certain rights and responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to participate in the public life of the community. House Study Bill 68 is a state constitutional amendment which would return voting rights to felons after they have served their sentence. The Iowa Poll released by the Des Moines Register has found a high level of support for the measure. We believe it would promote the civic engagement of those re-entering the community.

House Study Bill 68 has been approved by a subcommittee and now awaits action in the House State Government Committee. You can let the members of the Committee know you support the measure. Iowa is one of only two states that withhold the vote from felons after they serve their sentence.

shutterstock_427333528A bill to allow student groups, including religious ones, to choose their leadership in alignment with their beliefs passed the Senate Education Committee last week on a bipartisan vote. Senate File 274 now is eligible for debate by the Senate.

Several bills were considered by subcommittees in the Iowa Senate last week to add additional work and reporting requirements for some persons receiving government services such as SNAP (food stamps) or Medicaid. People have a right to assistance if they need it to survive, and at the same time, have an obligation to work if they are able. From our religious perspective, work is one way we imitate God, who is the great Creator.

These bills concern a population that is already at serious risk for health and welfare. The ICC is concerned that the proposals being considered would push people off the assistance programs not because they are ineligible but because of red tape and additional reporting requirements.

This week the Senate will hold its subcommittee hearing on Senate Joint Resolution 10, which would apply “strict scrutiny” to any restrictions on the rights of person to use or carry guns. The House’s version of this amendment passed a subcommittee a couple of weeks ago. The ICC opposes the amendment because it would make any future regulation of weapons difficult and we believe it would put current regulations in peril. The United States has higher levels of gun ownership than any other country and the bishops believe that weapons are simply too accessible.

A “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Senate File 240, is set to be considered by a Senate subcommittee this week. The ICC supports the bill.

This formerly uncontroversial proposal is very similar to the federal RFRA law that has been in place since the early 1990’s. This bill provides a standard of review for the court when there is a conflict between the First Amendment’s protection of “free exercise of religion” and a law. It says that government should not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it can be demonstrated that applying that burden is a compelling government interest and the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

Here are examples why we believe the law would be helpful:

  • The Iowa Supreme Court has found a fundamental right to abortion in the state. Yet our state law also allows persons to refuse to participate in an abortion. How will that law be interpreted in the future?
  • A specific religious group has been singled out by a state university and no longer allowed to choose their own leadership.

Many business groups in Iowa have registered in opposition to SF 240. The bill is controversial because many are looking at it primarily through the lens of LGBTQ issues.

Senate File 240 would treat all religious practice equally. More than half of the states have a very similar law or provision due to court action.

The 2019 Iowa Prayer for Life Rally will be held at the State Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 21 beginning at 9 a.m. with a lobbying workshop in Room 116. There will be a rally held in the rotunda at 10:45 a.m. with Gov. Kim Reynolds. One of our priorities this year is to pass a state constitutional amendment which would make our state Constitution “abortion-neutral.” The Iowa Supreme Court has decided that abortion is a fundamental right in the state.

STATEMENTS BY U.S. CATHOLIC BISHOPS

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement upon the decision of the Holy See regarding Theodore McCarrick. It read, “The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing. For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the Church’s response.

“If you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone within the Catholic Church, I urge you to contact local law enforcement and your local diocese or eparchy. Victims Assistance Coordinators are available to help. We are committed to healing and reconciliation.”

Responding to President Trump’s order to fund construction of a border wall, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued the following joint statement:

“We are deeply concerned about the President’s action to fund the construction of a wall along the U.S./Mexico border, which circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall. We oppose the use of these funds to further the construction of the wall. The wall first and foremost is a symbol of division and animosity between two friendly countries. We remain steadfast and resolute in the vision articulated by Pope Francis that at this time we need to be building bridges and not walls.” Click here for Catholic principles related to migration policy.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a new regulation saying that if an issuer of health plans offers plans that cover abortion, it must also offer at least one otherwise identical plan that does not cover abortion.

The U.S. bishops have issued an action alert encouraging the Administration to strengthen the regulation. Here’s the alert: https://votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/63339/Respond. The deadline is Tuesday.

AND FINALLY,

The Iowa Catholic Conference legislative breakfast is this Tuesday, Feb. 19. Bishops, board and committee members will have an opportunity to chat with lawmakers about our legislative priorities. We could use your prayers for good weather and good conversation!