By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
An effort to bring up an amendment to increase the minimum wage to $10.75 failed in the Iowa House on March 9 by a vote of 57-41. The House went on to pass House File 295 which would “pre-empt” cities and counties from raising the minimum wage on their own. Four counties — Linn, Wapello, Polk and Johnson — had already passed an increase in the minimum wage and the bill would take away that increase as well. HF 295 now goes to the Senate. The legislature still has an opportunity to increase the state’s minimum wage later in the session. If you haven’t had a chance to send a message to your legislator, please do!
House File 517, relating to the use of force and firearms, passed the Iowa House on March 6 by a vote of 58-39. The bill goes to the Senate. The hours-long debate on the floor of the House was one of the best ones of the session from our perspective in that it was civil and principle-based. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) opposes the bill. Under current Iowa law, there is no duty to retreat in the face of a threat while in your home or place of business, the so-called “Castle Doctrine.” House File 517 would expand Iowa’s Castle Doctrine and remove any duty to retreat anywhere.
Catholic moral teaching recognizes the right to self-defense as a way of preserving one’s life and defending others in the face of an imminent threat. However, the use of deadly force cannot be viewed as necessary if the threatened person can escape. We have a moral obligation to try to not use deadly force. We believe HF 517 moves Iowa farther away from the fundamental moral principle of “You shall not kill.” The bill also changes the frequency of background checks to acquire weapons from annually to once every five years. Despite the obvious benefit to law-abiding citizens, this provision would also benefit some gun buyers who commit crimes during that time.
The ICC opposes “enforcement-only” immigration legislation. While we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in continuing to “welcome the stranger.” Our perspective is that several bills moving through the legislative process, including House File 265, Senate File 412 and Senate File 481, have the potential to divide families and make everyday life more difficult for immigrants who may be here without papers but are productive members of our society.
These bills promote enforcement of federal immigration laws by local law enforcement staff without accounting for the current relationships of trust between them and immigrant communities. Please consider sending a message to your legislator opposing these bills.
We are encouraging an amendment to Senate File 471. The bill would restrict abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization with some exceptions, including babies who are very sick and will most likely die soon after birth. While these are horrible situations for families, the exception would replace the tragic, albeit natural death, of an unborn child with an early death by abortion.
The ICC supports House File 240 and Senate File 269, which would offer tax credits for donors to a nonprofit organization doing research in regenerative medicine. We support such research when it is done in an ethical way without destroying embryos. The legislation would help raise money for the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Coralville. The Institute has the largest adult stem cell repository in the world. This helps to displace the need for embryonic stem cells and aborted fetal tissue obtained unethically in medical research. The bill has passed a House subcommittee.
Please contact your legislator regarding these or other bills through our Action Center at www.votervoice.net/icc/home.
The annual “Education Celebration” rally to support Iowa’s nonpublic schools will be held at noon on Thursday, April 6 at the State Capitol. Last year’s event drew about 800 people and we hope this year’s will be the biggest ever. The free event is sponsored by the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education. For more information or to sign up go to www.iowaace.org. Let’s show lawmakers our support for nonpublic schools.
Health care debate
As Congress prepares to discuss possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, the chairmen of four U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees called on lawmakers to consider important moral criteria, especially pertaining to the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn and those experiencing deep poverty. The bishops have consistently advocated for a health care system in which everyone should be cared for and no one should be deliberately killed.
In a March 8 letter, four U.S. bishops urged Congress to respect life by preventing the use of federal funds to facilitate abortion or purchase health care plans that provide abortion; to honor conscience rights; and to ensure access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable.
The bishops called on Congress to ensure coverage for those who now rely upon it after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and expressed concern about any structural changes to the social safety net that could impact access to health care for millions.
The Trump Administration has signed a new executive order restricting refugee admissions. It is important to remember that refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of violence. Pope Francis has said, “All those who flee their own country because of war, violence and persecution have the right to find an appropriate welcome and adequate protection in countries that describe themselves [as] civilized.” As a blessed nation it is our moral duty to assist, protect and welcome refugees.
Send a message to your government officials today and urge them to uphold our moral duty and support refugees.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)