Issues that affect the wellbeing of our society — the right to life, prevention of gun violence, clean air, and humane immigration policy among them — are at the center of recent monumental state and federal court decisions. As we prepare for midterm elections later this fall, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to shape public policy as it applies to these and other important issues.
We begin with educating ourselves on the ramifications of these recent, pivotal judicial decisions. We must ask ourselves, how do they apply to four basic principles of Catholic social doctrine: dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity? These principles form the foundation “to evaluate policy positions, party platforms and candidates’ promises and actions in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church in order to help build a better world” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, http://tinyurl.com/38ddy85y).
Our legislators respond to feedback from us in shaping their platforms and proposed legislation. This summer, we ought to reach out to them with our ideas regarding legislation that keeps in mind the dignity of every life and an appreciation for the common good. We are “called to promote the well-being of all, to share our blessings with those most in need, to defend marriage, and to protect the lives and dignity of all, especially the weak, the vulnerable, the voiceless” (Faithful Citizenship).
Consider these four issues, subjects of recent major high court rulings, as starting points:
• Abortion. State and federal high court rulings found that the Iowa and U.S. constitutions do not confer a right to abortion. In the Iowa Supreme Court decision (June 17), the high court did not decide what constitutional standard should replace it. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) asks us to advocate for the “Protect Life Amendment,” which would allow Iowans to pass laws protecting preborn children. Read a brief synopsis of the bill at http://tinyurl.com/yc8yx4m3. We must be willing to support pregnant women in need through prayer, companionship or financial support of pro-life agencies. Equally important, lobby for just wages, affordable housing and affordable childcare (legis.iowa.gov and congress.gov).
• Gun rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 23 that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, striking down a New York gun law (AP, 6-23-22). That decision seems bewildering in an era of increasing mass shootings. At the same time, Congress passed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act in support of measures such as strengthening crisis intervention programs and funding to help schools prevent violence. The new law also strengthens the integrity of background checks and protects victims of domestic violence by closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” It also enhances reviews of gun purchasers under the age of 21. We should thank Congress for achieving compromise and urge more of the same in life-affirming legislation. Meanwhile, we ought to reject a proposed amendment to Iowa’s Constitution that would add a “strict scrutiny” standard to any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms, making it a fundamental right. The amendment would virtually eliminate the ability of the state legislature to regulate this right. Iowa’s bishops advise a “no” vote Nov. 8 because the right to bear arms found in the state’s constitution must be balanced against the safety and well-being of the populace as a whole. Check out Iowans for Responsible Gun Ownership (iowansforresponsiblegunlaws.com) and its campaign to defeat the proposed amendment.
• Power plant emissions. The Supreme Court ruled June 30 to limit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Who does this ruling serve? The most vulnerable among us or power company stockholders? “Both reasonable regulation and legislation are critical for addressing the threat and challenges of climate change,” the USCCB said in a statement in reaction to the ruling. “We call upon Congress to give the EPA the necessary authority to meaningfully regulate greenhouse gases.” Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst and our U.S. representative (congress.gov) need to hear from us. Advocate for the necessary, meaningful authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases.
• Immigration. The Supreme Court decided June 30 that the Secretary of Homeland Security’s termination of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy — was lawful. Immigration advocates (including the USCCB and other Catholic organizations) say the policy resulted in death, violence or misery for tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers. The patchwork of immigration policies and executive orders have failed to provide a humane response to suffering. We must convince Congress to pass merciful legislation that addresses migration flows in an orderly way.
Because we are persons of faith, as well as citizens, our mandate is to approach elected officials and other decision makers out of love for God and neighbor. Our willingness to draw closer to Christ, draws us closer to others in need and helps us to reflect God’s love and mercy. That’s the best public policy this side of heaven.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor