By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
The Iowa Catholic Conference asks Iowans to contact their legislators on two issues of concern: opposing the death penalty and support for parents of nonpublic school students. Many legislators are hearing from constituents about these issues and it is making a difference. Go to www.votervoice.net/icc/home for background information and sample messages.
The ICC also supports two proposed state constitutional amendments moving through the process. The first would clarify that Iowa’s Constitution does not contain a right to an abortion. This is necessary because of a decision of Iowa’s Supreme Court that identified abortion as a fundamental right. Therefore, if Roe v. Wade is struck down at the federal level, abortion through nine months of pregnancy will be defended as a fundamental right in Iowa. The proposed amendment would neither support nor outlaw a person’s right to an abortion.
The other proposed constitutional amendment would enable persons convicted of felonies and who have completed their prison sentence to receive the right to vote. Iowa is one of two states where those convicted of felonies cannot vote. The church teaches that every person is made in the image of God and has certain rights and responsibilities. One of the responsibilities of those re-entering the community from prison is to participate in the public life of the community. Treating people as good citizens promotes people acting like good citizens and not re-offending.
A bill to legalize sports betting, House File 648, is to be heard this week by the House Ways and Means subcommittee. The ICC opposes the legislation due to a greater number of people becoming addicted to gambling, and the resulting damage that gambling addiction causes to families. This is especially true because of gambling through phone apps.
At the State Capitol
Senate File 274, supported by the ICC, passed both chambers last week and is headed to the governor. The bill clarifies First Amendment protections for free speech and religious liberty on the campuses of Iowa’s state universities. The most controversial part of the legislation provides that student organizations will be able to choose leadership that supports the organization’s beliefs and mission. The bill’s opponents said they do not support student groups being able to discriminate.
A state constitutional amendment protecting the right to bear arms has passed both chambers. Senate Joint Resolution 18 would have to pass both the Senate and House again in 2021 or 2022 before it would go to a vote of the people of Iowa. Supporters said this amendment is necessary to make sure that Iowa has the strongest possible protections for firearms rights. ICC believes the amendment could lead to challenges of current gun laws.
House File 338 passed the House. It would enable adoptive parents to claim all qualifying expenses for a tax credit even if the costs were spread over more than one tax year. ICC supports the legislation. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The Education Celebration at the State Capitol in support of nonpublic schools is taking place April 2. A rally begins at noon. It’s sponsored by ICC partner the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. Let them know you’re coming at https://edcelebration2019.eventbrite.com/
The annual Religious Freedom Day event at the State Capitol is scheduled for April 11 at 11:30 a.m. The ICC is a co-sponsor of the event with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The day’s theme is “Religious Freedom Protects All.” Among the speakers will be Steven Collis, chair of Holland & Hart’s nationwide First Amendment practice group and a scholar at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Around the U.S.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration endorsed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6), legislation that would provide permanent legal protection and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders. Please ask the federal administration to rescind the “Remain in Mexico” policy and support asylum seekers by following existing law. The U.S. Catholic bishops note: “We appeal to governments, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they not adopt policies that have the effect of increasing the suffering of the most vulnerable.”
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, www.iowacatholicconference.org)