By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
DES MOINES — A bill to address racial profiling in Iowa’s justice system was approved by an Iowa Senate subcommittee last week.
The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) testified in support of the bill. Senate Study Bill 1038 is now eligible for consideration by the full Judiciary Committee. The bill calls for increased data collection by law enforcement, officer training and the creation of a community policing advisory board.
African Americans in Iowa make up about 3 percent of the population but more than one-quarter of the people in prison.
This past November, the entire body of Catholic bishops approved a pastoral letter against racism called “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.” The letter’s goal is to call attention to the evil of racism that persists in our country.
Last week an Iowa House subcommittee advanced a constitutional amendment returning the right to vote to felons after they have served their sentence. The ICC thanks Gov. Kim Reynolds for putting the proposal forward. Iowa is one of only two states that withhold the vote from felons after they serve their sentence. The ICC believes the measure promotes the civic engagement of those re-entering the community. To be approved, the amendment must pass both legislative chambers in two different sessions before going to the people of Iowa for a vote.
Several bills to legalize sports betting in Iowa have been introduced in the legislature, and a subcommittee hearing is scheduled to take place this week on the proposals. The ICC, which opposes the bills, recognizes that gambling can be a legitimate recreational activity in an atmosphere of moderation and control. The ICC also appreciates the assistance that some Catholic charities and institutions have received from casinos over the years.
However, gambling becomes morally unacceptable when it deprives someone of what is necessary to provide for his or her needs or those of others. The legalization of sports betting, especially through mobile apps, would be one of the biggest gambling expansions in our history.
If sports betting is legalized, the high quality of life that Iowans prize may suffer from a greater number of people becoming addicted to gambling and from the suffering and damage that gambling addiction causes to families. It also promotes reliance by government on a regressive form of revenue which takes money from those who may be the least able to afford it.
Finally, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has issued a statement in response to several states moving forward with legislation that would permit a baby to be aborted at nine months gestation. It reads, in part:
“Abortion has always been built on a lie. Today, the lie is switching from ‘abortion is a choice’ to ‘abortion is healthcare.’ A law recently passed in New York not only legalizes abortion essentially for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy but removes any protection for children born alive after abortion. A similar bill was proposed in Virginia along with several other states, all in the name of women’s health.
“This legislation is evil, pure and simple. And it shocks the conscience to see such evil legislation greeted with raucous cheers and standing ovations.… Now is the time for all Catholics — bishops, priests, and laity — to fight for the unborn with renewed vigor.”