Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, July 1, 2020

The end of June usually means the release of several decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and this year is no exception.

Yesterday the Court issued its decision in “Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue,” where a family challenged the Montana Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate a school tuition organization tax credit similar to Iowa’s. The Montana court eliminated the program because families wanted to use the scholarships at religious schools.

The Court held that if a state offers financial assistance to private schools, it cannot discriminate between secular and religious schools; it must offer the benefit to religious schools as well. This welcome decision puts a dent into many states’ “Blaine Amendments” and “compelled support” clauses - some born in anti-Catholic bigotry - which forbid aid to religious schools.

For the majority, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “That ‘supreme law of the land’ condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them. They are 'member[s] of the community too,’ and their exclusion from the scholarship program here is ‘odious to our Constitution’ and ‘cannot stand.’"

Taken with a 2017 decision that held a state can’t exclude church schools from government grants simply because they are religious, this is good news for Catholic school families. It will also be interesting to see any future implications for religious charitable groups that seek government money to serve.

On Monday the Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

A statement from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Pro-Life Activities said, “Abortion violently ends the life of a child, and often severely harms women. Abortion becomes even more destructive when basic health and safety standards are ignored, and profit margins are prioritized over women’s lives.”

ABORTION WAITING PERIOD LAW BLOCKED IN IOWA

Here in Iowa, a Johnson County district court judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of the new law requiring women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law on Monday. The injunction will continue while the lawsuit against the law brought by ACLU and Planned Parenthood takes its course.

This situation reveals how extreme the state Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling finding a fundamental right to abortion in Iowa’s constitution really is. Iowa law requires waiting periods before adoption or marriage, for example. More than half of the states have 24-hour or longer waiting periods before an abortion, but Iowa judges won’t even allow this reasonable restriction. This is why the ICC supports the Protect Life Amendment which clarifies our state constitution does not contain a right to an abortion.

ADMINISTRATION ASKED TO REVERSE COURSE ON EXECUTIONS

Following the U.S. Attorney General’s decision to set new federal execution dates for four federal death row inmates beginning July 13, and the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States declining to hear their appeal, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Administration to reverse course on presiding over federal executions for the first time in 17 years. Here’s the statement: www.usccb.org/news/2020/20-109.cfm.

There’s still time to sign on to the Catholics Mobilizing Network statement asking the government to stop the executions, found here: catholicsmobilizing.org/take-action-stop-federal-executions-1.

AND FINALLY,

Gov. Reynolds has signed the tax bill, HF 2641, that includes the provisions to improve the Iowa School Tuition Organization tax credit program. In addition, the governor signed HF 2259, which provides that Iowa government entities may spend public dollars only at lodging facilities where employees have received education in preventing human trafficking.

Have a great Fourth of July holiday!

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