2015-16 Legislative Principles

 

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 Religious Freedom

  • Enact a Religious Freedom Protection Act. Freedoms of conscience and of religion are primary and inalienable rights of the human person. Public policy must guard religious freedom by limiting government intrusion into religious matters, allowing for reasonable collaboration between public and religious entities, and protecting the rights of private institutions and employees to serve the community. Laws should not burden the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion absent a compelling governmental interest. (CCC: 1738; Dignitatis Humanae, 2; Christifideles Laici, 39)
  • Oppose efforts to weaken Minnesota’s religious liberty and conscience protections. Minnesota has a strong tradition of protecting religious freedom in both its state constitution and in state statutes. It does so because of the importance of religion in the lives of millions of Minnesotans, but also because it protects the “freedom to serve”—the ability of people of faith to contribute to the well-being of society. Existing protections, such as those in Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, should not be stripped away, but instead strengthened, because they protect a healthy pluralism of diverse viewpoints, and because they ensure that people of faith need not confine their religion within the four corners of a sanctuary. (Dignitatis Humanae, 6, 15; CSDC: 421-22)

 

 Life and Bio-ethics

  • Protect each and every human life from conception until natural death. Minnesota must effectively affirm, protect, and defend each and every human life, including the unborn. We must limit the availability of abortion, particularly during the later stages of pregnancy; end taxpayer funding of abortion; and oppose attempts to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. (CCC: 2270-79; Evangelium Vitae, 2; Living the Gospel of Life, USCCB)
  • Reject the death penalty. Pope John Paul II stated that the death penalty has no place where alternatives are available to protect society. Minnesota made a similar judgment when it abolished the death penalty in 1911. This policy has served us well and we must retain it. (Evangelium Vitae, 56; CCC: 2267)
  • Promote gun safety. Owning firearms for civilian purposes, such as for hunting and for personal protection, is recognized as a civil right in the United States. Yet all rights have limitations, and also come with responsibilities. The people who exercise the right to own a gun should be able to do so responsibly. Common-sense laws should be enacted that regulate the sale and use of guns; that make guns safer; and that ban firearms which are not intended primarily for civilian use. Further, because gun violence is sometimes perpetrated by people struggling with mental illness, depression, or addiction, Minnesota must make a serious commitment to provide health services and support to those who are facing such challenges, as well as to their families and caregivers. (CCC: 2316; CSDC: 511)
  • Support women facing unplanned pregnancies with real alternatives. In addition to adequate financial and medical support, women facing a crisis pregnancy need access to emotional and wrap-around services that can enable them to parent or to place their child for adoption. The state must also ensure access to high quality childcare and decent housing to women in need, and make it possible for them to continue their education. (Gaudium et Spes, 26; Living the Gospel of Life, 23, USCCB)
  • Stop domestic abuse. Every attack on human life and dignity must be opposed. All persons experiencing domestic abuse should have ready access to services that can assist them in resolving or escaping their situation. (CCC: 2389, 2297)
  • Support the aging, those with disabilities, the chronically ill, and the terminally ill. Respect for all human life means assisting those with limitations. Society must ensure these individuals receive the necessary support and services, including transportation and quality care. For example, people who receive adverse diagnoses, including during pregnancy, should be given accurate information by doctors, as well as referrals for places to go where they can find resources and support. (Gaudium et Spes, 27; Laborem Exercens, 22; CSDC: 131)

 

 Children, Marriage, and Families

  • Encourage and strengthen marriage. Lifelong marriage between one man and one woman is essential to the continuation of the human race, to the total development of the human person, and to the dignity, stability, peace, and prosperity of the family and society. Minnesota must promote authentic marriage, reconsider liberal divorce laws, and evaluate all public policies in light of their impact on children, marriage, and families. (CCC: 2210; Gaudium et Spes, 52)
  • Keep children safe. Public policies must promote the safety and well-being of our children, protecting them from all forms of abuse and neglect, while at the same time preserving the legitimate rights of parents. (Familiaris Consortio, 26)
  • Respect and promote family relationships. Minnesota must design and implement policies in the areas of taxation, employment, and human services that foster family unity and economic security, encourage marriage, and reward personal responsibility. (CCC: 2207-08; Familiaris Consortio, 45-46)
  • Policies must foster inter-generational solidarity and support caregivers, including stay-at-home parents. Whenever possible, parents should be given the option to care for their young children at home, or place them in quality day care programs should both parents need to work. Adequate parental leave policies must be guaranteed for parents following the birth of a child or to attend their children’s school functions. Similarly, those who forego work to care for their aging parents or the elderly should also be supported by tax incentives or similar programs. (CCC: 2202, 2209; Centesimus Annus, 47)
  • Promote adoption and foster care. Minnesota should maintain support for state-sponsored adoption awareness campaigns, adoption counseling, and tax credits for adoptive parents. Parents adopting or fostering children, especially those with special needs, must receive the necessary supports to help their families thrive. (CCC: 2209)

 

 Preferential Option for Poor and Vulnerable

  • Ensure a strong safety net. Minnesota should strengthen and reform, where appropriate, its social safety net to ensure the poor and vulnerable of our state have access to vital human services. Investments in human services are investments in people. (CCC: 2443-49)
  • Fight hunger. Food is a basic human right, yet thousands of Minnesota residents go hungry every day. For children this is especially harmful, as malnutrition impairs cognitive and physical growth. Public policies must help ensure that all residents, particularly children, have access to healthy and affordable food. (Gaudium et Spes, 26)
  • Foster employment opportunities for people with disabilities. All persons have the right to earn a living, participate in the economy, and contribute to the common good. Minnesota must make every effort to assist persons with physical and mental impairments to find and retain employment. (CCC: 2433; CSDC: 289)
  • Provide adequate funding for safe and affordable housing. Shelter is a basic human right. Minnesota must ensure that all its residents have access to decent and affordable housing. (Gaudium et Spes, 26)
  • Prohibit predatory lending practices. Minnesota should close loopholes in its existing lending laws and continue to encourage responsible lending alternatives. (CCC: 2269)
  • Criminal justice policies should foster responsibility, restoration, and rehabilitation. Victims of crime, including the community at large, must have opportunities for healing and being restored in justice. Further, the community has a right to be safe from truly dangerous persons. But corrections policies should serve more aims than just punishment. Criminal sentences should take into account a number of factors, including an offender’s danger to the community, rather than just relying on mandatory minimums. Corrections policies should also make special efforts to reintegrate poor and marginalized offenders into society, as well as eliminate “collateral consequences” that attach to convictions after a period of incarceration has been completed, such as the inability to vote. (CCC: 2266; CSDC: 403; Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 40)
  • Prevent the exploitation and commodification of persons. The morality of economic arrangements does not rest solely on the apparent consent or agreement between the buyer and seller of bodily services or products. Human trafficking, prostitution, ova removal, and commercial surrogacy are a few examples of unequal buyer/seller relationships. Public policy needs to protect vulnerable persons from any situations that may put them at risk of being exploited or treated like a commercial commodity. (Pope Francis, 2015 World Day of Peace Message “No Longer Slaves, but Free”; CCC: 2414)
  • Assist veterans, their families, and those affected by armed conflict. Minnesota must ensure that veterans and their families receive proper support as they return to civilian life. Minnesota must also assist refugees and others whose lives have been harmed by military conflict. (CSDC: 505)

 

 Jobs/Economy

  • Support equitable taxation and sound fiscal policies. Our political institutions are responsible for securing the social conditions that enable each of us to share our gifts and reap the benefits of life in community. The payment of taxes, though unpopular, is essential if government at all levels is to fulfill this responsibility. Citizens have a moral obligation to pay those taxes, and elected officials are responsible to ensure that they not be unduly burdensome or force caregivers into the workplace. Justice also requires that the tax burden be distributed equitably and based on a person’s ability to pay. Fiscal policies must avoid excessive debt that burdens future generations. (CSDC: 355)
  • Support family farms. Family farms form the backbone of Minnesota’s rural economy. Public resources should help existing farmers maintain their operations and encourage the creation of new family farms. (CSDC: 339)
  • Policies should encourage the payment of just wages. All employed persons supporting themselves and their families must be able to afford the basic essentials of food, clothing, shelter, and health care. State law can encourage businesses to provide just wages to their employees, and set wage floors to prevent exploitation of workers. For example, minimum wage laws should be indexed to reflect changes in the cost of living. (CCC: 2434; Gaudium et Spes, 67)
  • Remove barriers to employment. Many citizens are willing to work but unable to do so because of discrimination and lack of transportation, but also because of burdensome and unnecessary regulations and red tape that inhibit job creation and entrepreneurial activity. Legislators at all levels should frequently review laws to ensure that they contribute to the common good, as well as promote employment and the dignity of work. The public and private sectors should work together to remove these barriers. (CSDC: 291, 336-37)
  • Participate justly in the global economy. Minnesota’s policies governing our participation in the global economy must respect the dignity of all people. Trade agreements with firms in other countries and investment policies must respect the human rights of workers and their families, and foster sound stewardship of the earth’s natural resources. (CSDC: 364; Populorum Progressio, 61; Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 43)

 

 Health Care

  • Make affordable health care available to all. Health care is a basic human right. Small employers, farmers, and the working poor must be able to purchase affordable health benefits. Minnesota policy must extend additional quality health care access to the uninsured and underinsured. This responsibility includes reforming the state’s healthcare programs such as MNSure, if necessary, to ensure that they are expanding access to healthcare and making it more affordable for Minnesotans. (CCC: 2288)
  • Require parental consent for medical treatments. Parents have primary responsibility for ensuring the health, well-being, and education of their children. Government funding must not undermine parents by supporting programs that provide medical treatment, abortion, and artificial contraception to children without parental knowledge or consent. (CCC: 2209; Familiaris Consortio, 45)
  • Protect the conscience rights of health care professionals. Medical technology and practices are constantly evolving, yet there is significant disagreement about the prudence and ethical soundness of many procedures and drugs. Explicit protections for health care professionals should be embedded in Minnesota statutes to ensure that they may opt out of performing procedures or administering drugs or treatments that they consider unethical. (Evangelium Vitae, 73-74; Humanae Vitae, 27)
  • Oppose efforts to require employers to provide insurance coverage for objectionable medical services and procedures. Health insurance coverage, which many employers choose to provide though not obligated by law to do so, should offer coverage to heal the body, not mutilate or disable its proper functioning. Sterilizations and abortions are not health care, and those employers that object to covering these and other objectionable products or procedures, such as contraception or so-called sex-reassignments, should not be forced to do so. (CSDC, 233; Mulieris Dignitatem, 1)

 

 Education

  • Support choice in education. Parents are the primary educators of their children and have the right to send their children to the school of their choice, whether public, religious, or independent. Social justice further demands that government resources be provided to poor families so that they may choose the educational path best suited to their child’s success. (Familiaris Consortio, 36; Gravissimum Educationis, 6)
  • Strengthen support for education. Education is a sure path to full participation in the social, economic, and political life of our nation. Therefore, Minnesota must sustain its public commitment to strong elementary and secondary schools. In particular, it must make greater efforts to ensure that all our children remain in school and achieve their highest academic potential. (Gaudium et Spes, 26; Populorum Progressio, 35)
  • Parents’ Bill of Rights. Parents are the primary educators of their children, and should be involved in, not replaced by, school sex education programs. When public schools choose to discuss topics related to human sexuality and gender, parents should be notified and have the right to remove their children from curricula that they find objectionable. Parents’ rights to direct the moral education of their children should never depend on their ability to homeschool or pay for private education. (Familiaris Consortio, 37; CSDC: 243)
  • Students’ free speech, associational, and religious liberties must be preserved. The United States Supreme Court famously said that the First Amendment does not end at the schoolhouse door. Increasingly, however, public schools and universities seem to disagree, and enact policies that inevitably end in litigation. Students in both our K-12 schools and in Minnesota’s colleges and universities should not have to go to court to protect their rights. School officials, responsible for creating an environment dedicated to the exchange of ideas, should be given explicit direction about the constitutional rights of students upon which they may not trample. (Centesimus Annus, 7; CSDC: 200; CCC: 2108-09; Pacem in Terris, 12)
  • Ensure the preservation of state pupil aid for students in non-public schools. The State of Minnesota has made an intentional decision to provide certain resources such as textbook aid, busing, and health care, to all students irrespective of whether they attend public or non-public schools. That funding should be preserved and clarified, where necessary, to include counseling services and the transition, in some cases, from textbooks to electronic educational resources. (Divini Illius Magistri, 81; Familiaris Consortio, 40)

 

 Migration

  • Uphold human rights of immigrants and refugees. Immigration reform must be comprehensive and include, among other things, a temporary worker program, a viable path to citizenship, border security measures, and due process protections for persons who cross our nation’s border. Laws aimed at enforcement should distinguish between dangerous criminals and non-violent persons whose only offense is lack of proper status. Our laws must also protect immigrants and refugees from all exploitation, and ensure that they can meet their families’ basic needs and not become a permanent underclass hiding in the shadows of society. (CCC: 2241, 2433; CSDC: 289; Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, USCCB; Unlocking the Gate in Our Hearts, Catholic Bishops of Minnesota)
  • Fight human trafficking. Many vulnerable adults and children have been trapped in modern-day slavery. Anti-trafficking laws and programs should be strengthened to discourage the growth of this trade. Support networks for both labor- and sex-trafficking victims should be created and funded. (CCC: 2355, 2414; CSDC: 245; Human Trafficking in Minnesota, JRLC)

 

 Care of Creation

  • Promote sustainable farming. Agriculture is not just another economic activity; it is vital to human existence. Minnesota should promote sustainable farming that provides fair prices so that farmers can make a decent living, raise animals ethically, and maintain sound management practices. For the sake of food security and healthy diets, the state should also promote the production and consumption of local foods. (CSDC: 486-87)
  • Support clean land, air, and water. Environmental toxins, such as lead, PCBs, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, are especially a problem for children, born and unborn. Minnesota must make additional efforts to reduce toxins from our ground and water supply, fight soil contamination and erosion, and continue to reduce carbon emissions. (CSDC: 484-85)
  • Encourage conservation and renewable energy. State policies must continue to promote the conservation of our natural resources and the development of alternative sources of energy. (Centesimus Annus, 37; CSDC: 470)
  • Create public spaces to address environmental challenges and the effective stewardship of Minnesota’s natural resources. Minnesota is a land of rich natural resources. These resources are used in energy production and manufacturing. Extracting, refining, and transporting these resources creates many jobs and economic opportunities. But extracting natural resources comes at a cost to the land and to communities. Given the opportunities being created by new technologies, particularly in the mining industry, public spaces need to be created where all Minnesotans, including industry leaders, local communities, and environmental advocates, have the opportunity to offer their input about how to steward scarce resources. (CCC: 339; Caritas in Veritate, 50-51)

 

Please note: The citations for these legislative priorities are not exhaustive. They represent only a sampling of Catholic teaching, not a complete list.