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Pope Francis and School Choice11 Apr

By: Andrew J. VandiverID-10069170

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis addressed issues related to marriage and the family. The document has received a great deal of media coverage and it will shape the way that the Church discusses these issues moving forward.  One important section of the exhortation focused on reaffirming the Church’s traditional teaching on the primary role of parents in the area of education.

In Paragraph 84, Pope Francis strongly sets forth that education is the “primary right” of parents. This is not simply a task for the parents to accomplish, but rather an “essential and inalienable right.”  The government’s role is to support the parents in the exercise of this right, not to replace them.  While the government offers educational opportunities, “parents themselves enjoy the right to choose freely the kind of education – accessible and of good quality – which they wish to give their children in accordance with their convictions.”

Pope Francis’ statements on education reflect the moral dimension of the issue of school choice. This is not simply a matter of policy.  Instead, we have to ask ourselves whether the current educational environment in our country supports parents as the primary educators of their children.  Further, does the current environment allow for all parents, not just the affluent, to exercise the fundamental right to “choose a school for their children which corresponds to their own personal convictions.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2229).

It is not enough for policymakers to simply say that parents have the “right” to choose their children’s school without providing concrete conditions necessary for exercise of this right.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2229). In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (#72), the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote that “Government, through such means as tax credits and publicly funded scholarships, should help provide resources for parents, especially those of modest means, to exercise this basic right without discrimination.”

A majority of states in our country have taken significant steps towards affording educational options to all families. Yet, many states, including Kentucky, still lag behind by not providing any public support for parents in the exercise of this right.  In these states, students are generally sent to a school based on their ZIP Code, which is in turn is often decided by their income. Of course, this is not the case for many students, whose parents’ wealth allows them to choose the public school district that they live within or affords them the opportunity to choose a nonpublic school.

Such disparities cannot persist without causing further damage to our society. Policymakers should heed Pope Francis’ words and create an education system which serves all families.

Andrew J. Vandiver is a lifelong Kentuckian and a convert to Catholicism. Andrew joined the Catholic Conference of Kentucky as Associate Director after working several years as a private practice attorney.

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Ky. Senate Agrees to Amendment on HB 70; Sen. Rand Paul Endorses House Version23 Feb

On Feb. 19 the Kentucky Senate State and Local Government committee agreed to an amended version of HB 70 offered by Sen. Damon Thayer, the majority flood leader. Though the Catholic Conference had supported HB 70 for many years, it withdrew its support after Sen. Thayer amended it. We are now working to get it to a conference committee where the harm done by his amendment may be corrected.

FRANKFORT— U.S. Sen. Rand Paul speaks in favor of a voter rights restoration bill.  House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, Ky. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, and Rep. Jesse Crenshaw also spoke. 

U. S. Senator Rand Paul, Ky. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, and the principal co-sponsor Minority House Floor Leader Rep. Jeff Hoover all testified on the importance of restoring voting rights, but did not endorse the Sen. Thayer amendment.

On Friday night at a Republican fundraiser in Louisville,  the Courier-Journal reported that they both supported the House version of HB 70, though Sen. Paul did remind everyone that at least the bill received a Senate hearing and can be improved when it is sent to a conference committee to resolve differences.  Here is what Commissioner Comer said:

“The House version accomplishes what we want to accomplish,” he said. “We want to get more people involved in the process and we want to do it right away.”

House Bill 70′s sponsor, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw spoke against the proposed changes, as did a final witness, Mr. Raoul Cunningham, President of the Louisville NAACP.

A host of others, including the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, signed in to speak against the proposed changes, but the committee chair, Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro, did not allow them to speak, saying there was not enough time to do so. Though committee meetings generally last two hours, this one ended well short of that.

In this opinion column that appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, Feb. 23, Tomas Lopez, an attorney with the Brennan Center, and Fr. Delahanty describe the effect of the amendment:

The substitute bill would dilute HB 70 in three key ways: First, by barring people with certain offenses from restoring their voting rights. Second, even more importantly, by also excluding people with multiple prior felonies from voting. And third, by barring people from getting their rights restored if they committed a misdemeanor within five years of completing their sentence.

The Catholic Conference, as well as the Kentucky Council of Churches, the ACLU of KY, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, the Ky. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others are working hard to find a way to convince lawmakers that the Senate version of HB 70 must not go on the ballot in November.

The Conference hopes you will call 1.800.372.7181 and leave a message asking your State Representative to refuse to concur with the Senate amendment; and a second message asking your State Senator to recede from the amendment when the House refuses to concur.

Here are some important links to articles and editorials regarding the proposed Senate amendment which, instead of promoting the common good as Catholic teachings urge us to do, promotes division among us and severely limits some from participating fully in the public life of the community.

Gutting of Felon Rights Bill Angers Backers – Courier-Journal report on Committee Hearing and Floor Vote
GOP Senate Makes Farce of Voting Rights Amendment – Lexington Herald-Leader
Thayer’s Wrecking Ball Takes Out Bill – Courier-Journal Editorial
Rand Paul backs House version of felon voting bill - Courier-Journal
Felons’ voting-rights bill on ropes despite Rand Paul’s push
– Joe Gerth’s Sunday Column.
Senate Made Mockery of Voting Rights Amendment: Sunday,  Lexington Herald-Leader
Comer liked original voting rights bill better, Paul said changed version still ‘a step forward’ – Report from Ryan Alessi, cn|2 Pure Politics

 Photo: Ky. Legislative Research Commission

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Ensure Fair Treatment for Property Owners in Pipeline Dispute23 Feb

Pipeline Route

Legislators have sponsored several bills to protect property owners from the taking of their land through the power of eminent domain.To date only one of these bills has been given any consideration by committees.

We encourage readers to ask their State Representatives to support House Bill 31 and amendments agreed to by the sponsor.

House Bill 31 seeks to help by clarifying who has the right to use this power in Kentucky. Pipeline companies claim they do, but others disagree. On Wednesday, Feb. 19, the House Judiciary Committee began a discussion of this bill and plans to vote on it during the next regular committee meeting, Feb. 26.

The Conference is neutral regarding whether or not there should be a pipeline installed here. But we are concerned that people owning property may be unduly pressured by the threat to use eminent domain to seize their property so we are supporting the proposed committee substitute for HB 31 that makes it clear that natural gas liquids are neither oil nor gas and that those proposing a pipeline to transport them do not qualify under Kentucky law to use eminent domain powers.

You can watch a video of the Feb. 19 House Judiciary Committee meeting here.

Graphic: Bluegrasspipeline.com

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Bishops Elect New President; Issue Unanimous Special Message on Health Care Law14 Nov

Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky is very happy to announce that its Board chairman, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, is the new president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Conference already benefits from his leadership and pastoral sensitivities and now others will also benefit from them. His support for issues regarding human life and dignity is unwavering. He strongly defends the life for the unborn child and the life of a convict on death row at Eddyville. Under his leadership the Conference works to secure the right to vote for ex-offenders, advocates for caps on loans to people in need, preserves strict standards to protect religious liberty, and seeks ways to enact policies that help parents who prefer a private school environment for the education of their children. We congratulate him as he takes up this new challenge.

The bishops also voted unanimously to issue a “Special Message”  regarding the implementation of the Health and Human Services Mandate that violates the rights of religious believers. In the message the bishops state the following:

Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

As a result of the impasse between government and church on this issue the bishops state:

We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

To read the complete message click here.

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Support Immigration Reform on National Call-in Day: November 1311 Nov

Cabrini

St. Frances Cabrini, Patroness of Immigrants, Pray For Us

On Wednesday, November 13, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Frances Cabrini, a patroness of immigrants. On that day Catholics and others who support fair and just comprehensive immigration reform have an opportunity to raise their voices and speak up on behalf of immigrants living amongst us.

Please use this TOLL-FREE phone number on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 to leave a message for your Kentucky member of the House of Representatives in Washington:

1-855-589-5698

On this National Call-In Day to Congress, callers using the TOLL-FREE number will hear a short recording instructing them to give the following message to their Member of Congress:

SUPPORT A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP AND OPPOSE THE SAFE ACT.

After the recording, callers will then be prompted to enter their zip code on their telephone keypad and will be connected directly to their Representative’s DC office.

Before Wednesday, please share this message with your friends and family members and ask them to make the phone call also. If you use Twitter we suggest this for a tweet:

On 11/13 Catholics|friends of immigrants: call U.S. Representatives 1-855-589-5698-“Support a path to citizenship and oppose the SAFE Act.”

Of course there is a great deal of more information about the Church’s teaching regarding immigration and why we ask people to speak up on their behalf at http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/.

And you can also send this written message to your members of Congress in addition to taking the time to make that phone call on November 13: http://bit.ly/JFIpostcard

If you prefer to use a direct line to your member of Congress, here is a list of those who represent KY and their Washington office phone numbers:

Rep. Ed Whitfield – 202.225-3115
Rep. Brett Guthrie – 202.225-3501
Rep. John Yarmuth – 202.225.5401
Rep. Thomas Massie – 202.225.3465
Rep. Hal Rogers – 202.225.4601
Rep. Andy Barr – 202.225.4706

For more information about why we OPPOSE the SAFE act, please read one or both of the following letters:

Photo: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons

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