By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
The Iowa bishops have released their “Faithful Citizenship for Iowa Catholics” statement for the 2016 general election. The Catholic Church does not endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. However, it contributes to the political process by encouraging Catholics to take action in the political arena with a properly formed conscience.
“The defense of human life and dignity must begin with the fundamental right to life from natural conception to natural death. From there it extends to fair access to productive work and fair wages, food and shelter, education and health care, protection from harm and freedom to emigrate,” the bishops wrote. “All people have a right to these, and therefore we have a duty to help protect life and to provide for the common good.”
While most attention is being paid to the presidential race, laws passed by the state legislature probably have a bigger day-to-day effect on most Iowans. That’s why the bishops have included a set of questions that could be asked of each candidate. Together we can have a big impact on candidates if we let them know about our priorities.
The bishops also address voting, the formation of conscience and qualities we need to see in leaders. Visit iowacatholicconference.org to see the Faithful Citizenship statement.
Sign up now for the Iowa School Choice Summit
Many of you are interested in encouraging state lawmakers to support families of nonpublic school students. One way the state helps low-income nonpublic school students is by providing tax credits to raise money for scholarships. Even more could be accomplished through state approval of Education Savings Accounts. Coming up is another way you can help advance school choice in Iowa. The Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education (Iowa ACE) is sponsoring the Iowa School Choice Summit on Wednesday, Sept. 14. This free event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. The keynote speaker will be Derrell Bradford of 50CAN and NYCAN. Breakouts will be offered for parents, school administrators and School Tuition Organization personnel.
Continental breakfast starts at 8:15 a.m.
Effort to increase minimum wage goes local
The Iowa Catholic Conference supports an increase in the state’s minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.25, the same as the federal minimum. It hasn’t been raised since 2007.
Since efforts to approve an increase have stalled at the state legislature during the past several years, other groups such as labor unions and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement have been working at the county and city level to encourage local increases. Johnson County, for example, passed an ordinance to increase the minimum wage in two steps to $10.10. It looks like Polk County will be passing an increase as well.
This doesn’t take away our responsibility to continue supporting an increase at the state level. While the minimum wage is nowhere near a living wage, an increase would help more people earn their own way and help strengthen some of Iowa’s families.
Still time to weigh in on payday loan rules
In early June, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed new rules regulating lenders in the payday loan industry. The ICC has been working to reform payday lending here in Iowa and help people avoid a “debt cycle” which is very difficult to escape.
The proposed federal rules may help the situation by requiring borrowers to prove their ability to repay the loan. Unfortunately, the rule provides that six payday loans could be made before this kicks in. Tell the CFPB a strong rule is needed.
Sept. 9 — Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities
In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., has invited all dioceses across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities. He has also appointed a task force to support bishops in marking that Day of Prayer and, more broadly, in promoting peace and healing during this time of great strain on civil society.
The Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities will be celebrated on the feast of St. Peter Claver, Sept. 9, and will serve as a focal point for the work of the task force.
Action encouraged on criminal justice reform bills
In 2000, the Catholic Bishops of the United States in their statement, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice.” The statement called for restorative justice and healing for everyone involved in crime — offender, victim, and community — with a special consideration for how crime and sentencing affects families. In the past year, bipartisan leadership and hard work of the U.S. House’s Judiciary Committee led to committee passage of three important bills: The Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713), the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 759) and the Second Chance Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3406). Together these bills would reduce harsh sentences, incentivize prison rehabilitation, ban shackling of pregnant women in federal custody and expand opportunities for Americans returning home after incarceration.
Over the past several months the bills have stalled, as they have yet to be introduced to the floor for debate and a vote. While Congress is on recess this month, urge your Representative to take action on criminal justice reform.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)