The Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the bishops of Iowa, has released its list of priority items for 2017. The ICC board of directors, which the bishops lead, passed the legislative agenda Oct. 20. In addition to Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, the other Iowa ordinaries are: Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque; Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines.
Parents have the right to choose the kind of education best suited to the needs of their children. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports public policies that assist parents in exercising that right, including:
• Broadening financial assistance to families through education savings accounts, tax credits or other means.
• Equitable participation of nonpublic school children in federal- and state-funded programs.
• Full funding of public schools for the transportation of nonpublic school students.
• Increased assistance for students enrolled in accredited nonpublic schools through technology and textbook appropriations.
Human life and dignity
We support the protection of human life from conception until natural death.
• Limitations on late-term abortions.
• Funding of alternatives to abortion through programs which assist women in crisis pregnancies.
• Legislation for an informed consent process for women before an abortion.
• Legislation allowing a “wrongful death of the unborn” lawsuit following a negligent or criminal act.
• Ban on human cloning.
• Reasonable measures to control the sale and use of firearms, including universal background checks for gun purchases.
• All abortions, no matter the method.
• Use of fetal tissue for research following an abortion.
• Public funding of abortion or embryonic stem cell research.
• Legalization of assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Government should give the needs of the poor and vulnerable special consideration. As Pope Francis reminds us, “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.”
• An increase in the state’s minimum wage.
• Legislation to limit predatory lending practices.
• Progressive tax system, a just living wage, and fair and reasonable labor practices by employers.
• Reducing disincentives for people to improve their financial situation through work.
• Disproportionate cuts to programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
• Legislation that would allow for additional taxes and/or fees for services to be imposed on not-for-profit organizations.
We show our respect for the creator by our stewardship of creation. In Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, “Laudato Si,” he says “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (13).
• Measures to preserve and to protect and improve the quality of the air, water and land in Iowa. The conference supports the ability of local government to address public health concerns relating to the environment.
• Strict enforcement of present environmental laws and adequate state funding for this purpose.
• Strengthening sustainable agriculture, family farms, and a safe, affordable, and sustainable food supply.
• Efforts to expand renewable sources of energy.
Among the causes that contribute to poverty are “inadequate measures for guaranteeing basic health care” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 447). It is in this spirit we reiterate our Catholic tradition that teaches that health care is a natural human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity.
We support initiatives which would make health care, including mental health care, more readily available and affordable to all Iowans, including immigrants and their children.
Marriage and families
The Catholic Church supports the family unit as a basic building block of society. This includes marriage as a union of one man and one woman as well as programs that help families and children.
• Efforts to expand family-strengthening programs and to improve childcare programs and increase welfare payments to poor families and children in Iowa.
• Eliminating the legal waiting period before a divorce.
Pope Francis urges us to replace the “culture of exclusion,” which leads to discrimination and intolerance, with a “culture of encounter,” and to combat every form of racism. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports efforts to build peace in our communities and work for racial justice.
Regarding criminal behavior, a Catholic approach begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victim and offender. Our response to sin and failure is not abandonment and despair, but justice, contrition, reparation and return or re-integration of all into the community.
• Legislation that prohibits sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
• Sentencing reform that emphasizes community-based corrections for offenders who are not a threat to the community and gives greater latitude to judges when deciding appropriate penalties.
• Specialty courts, such as drug courts and mental health courts.
• Protection of persons from being trafficked.
• Reinstatement of the death penalty.
‘Welcoming the stranger’
As a people of faith, we support the Scriptural commandment to “welcome the stranger” and defend the God-given dignity of every person.
• Legislation providing for a provisional driver’s license for undocumented immigrants.
• Legislation directing that undocumented high school graduates who are residents of Iowa be eligible for in-state tuition rates at state universities.
• Efforts to authorize state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
We support government assistance for the resettlement of refugees.
As we enter the public square, we expect government to recognize our First Amendment right to live out our teachings and be a good neighbor to society. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports initiatives that protect religious liberty and the legitimate exercise of the freedom of conscience.
Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.