The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, provides an occasional “Inside the Capitol” update during the state legislative session.
By Minnesota Catholic Conference
It is no question that the family plays an irreplaceable role as the first economic unit, the first classroom, and the first community that each of us experiences. And parents perform the irreplaceable work of nurturing the next generation of thinkers, artisans, and caregivers. So, as the Minnesota Legislature is now crafting the next biennial state budget and deciding what to do with a $17 billion surplus, Minnesota’s bishops are urging our lawmakers to place families first in their considerations.
On March 23, the bishops came together to advocate at the State Capitol — a yearly tradition. While Minnesota Catholic Conference staff are typically deployed to be their voice on legislative issues, the bishops make it a priority to advocate in person on key issues and get to know legislators.
This year, the bishops met with Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leadership, including Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, president of the Senate; Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson; Rep, Liz Olson, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; and House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, joined by Rep. Jim Nash, House minority whip.
The bishops also met with Catholic legislators from their individual dioceses, which was a new feature of the day this year. In the spirit of faithful citizenship, it was a rewarding experience for the bishops to get to know or strengthen their relationships with many of the Catholics serving our state at the Capitol. As Pope Francis has said, “Politics is the highest form of charity.” To have Catholic leaders step up in this way is a blessing.
In total, the bishops had nearly 40 meetings and conversations with legislators throughout the day. They brought to each of these meetings a positive vision of the family.
Focus on families
Our bishops highlighted the need to support Minnesota families who are struggling to keep up with the costs of inflation and to combat the social difficulties families are encountering through addiction, gender ideology, and social media. To that end, our bishops boldly advocated for a robust, ongoing child tax credit. This is a top priority for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
This session, there is bipartisan support for the idea of a child tax credit among legislators and the governor. The bishops are asking for the child tax credit proposal to reach more families who are facing financial stressors in today’s economy. That means, among other factors, that the income threshold should reach into the middle class and that there should be no cap on the number of children covered in a family.
As a part of raising children, parents today are bombarded with the often-negative impact that social media are creating. One step toward combating this impact, as the bishops advocated throughout the day, would be to prohibit the use of social media algorithms on children under age 18 (H.F. 1503 / S.F. 2101). The bishops shared firsthand stories from their pastoral experiences of helping families navigate the psychological strain that social media are having on youth in their dioceses. They also pointed out that it is often through social media that seeds of gender theory are planted, fertilized, and start to grow.
By embracing gender ideology, today’s culture aims to blur the line between man and woman by ignoring the union between body and soul, and between our Creator and his creation. This ideology leads to viewing humans as plastic, something that can be molded and reimagined at ease. Inundating youth with such gender ideology implants in them confusion, on which some act and mutilate their bodies, causing irreversible damage. The bishops asked Gov. Walz and legislative leaders to rethink their push to make Minnesota a sanctuary state for “gender-affirming care” and to slow down the legislation that is being fast-tracked through the Legislature.
The bishops also expressed their opposition to, and concerns over, the push for legalizing recreational marijuana and sports gambling because of the clear negative impacts these vices will have on those who are vulnerable to addiction.
During their meetings, the bishops also gave their support to the Earned Sick and Safe Time proposal which would provide workers the ability to earn one hour of time off for every 30 hours worked. This is vital to family life because illness in one’s life or family is inevitable. Caring for newborns, children, the sick, and the elderly (and being cared for ourselves) is an integral part of family life that must be respected and promoted. Unfortunately, many working people are forced to make impossible financial choices between caring for themselves or a loved one and missing a paycheck or even getting fired. This program is one more way we can put families first in Minnesota.
Also, in line with keeping families together, lawmakers provided positive feedback to the bishops for their strong support over the years for providing an immigrant driver’s license. With access to a driver’s license not only can our immigrant brothers and sisters now access vehicle insurance, but it also helps ensure families will not be separated through deportation due to driving without a license.
Modeling faithful citizenship
During all of their meetings, the bishops modeled faithful citizenship. Even in areas of disagreement, the bishops stood for the truth that the Church teaches, while recognizing that these are difficult issues on which there are an array of considerations. They showcased the principled, not partisan, advocacy that the Church can provide, which allows for collaborative work on both sides of the aisle.
You can also live out the call to faithful citizenship by taking action on these important issues that will impact families across Minnesota. Visit the MNCatholic.org/ActionAlerts to easily send a message, video, or phone call to your legislators urging their support for policies that put families first.
For more ways to advocate for policies that put families first, check out the Families First Project at www.FamiliesFirstProject.com where you can find draft legislation to propose to your legislators and lots of information and resources for a variety of policy proposals.