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Pro-Life Bills and Death Penalty Repeal Bill

Here’s an update on legislative items for your consideration. We have been told that at least two, if not all three, of the pro-life bills relating to abortion will be heard by the House Labor and Health Committee on Monday, January 30. For your convenience, the bills are linked directly below, as well as the email addresses for those committee members, whom we strongly encourage you to contact. See our how-to tips for that on our web pages (cited at the bottom).

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2017/Introduced/HB0116.pdf

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2017/Introduced/HB0132.pdf

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2017/Introduced/HB0182.pdf

Representatives:

Also, today a new House bill was introduced, for repeal of the death penalty. No committee assignment yet, but stay tuned! Here is the link to that bill. 

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2017/Introduced/HB0240.pdf

Please spread the word about the short Bill Tracker on our website and on the Legislative Liaison Facebook page. There is a lot of legislation that we are watching which we haven’t listed, simply in order to not overwhelm our viewers. It is our hope that everyone take a look at the Wyoming Legislature website, especially the Bill Tracking page athttp://legisweb.state.wy.us/2017/billreference/BillReference.aspx?type=ALL

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HB135 Government Nondiscrimination Bill

Good Afternoon, All:

I wanted to share with you the text of what will be going up on our Diocese of Cheyenne Legislative Liaison site today regarding HB135, titled Government Nondiscrimination Act, linked here: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2017/Introduced/HB0135.pdf
This is a bill that is intended to protect religious freedoms of people who believe that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman. As in the case of Pinedale’s Judge Ruth Neely, this belief could soon be grounds for disqualifying someone from public office.

Opponents of HB135 are afraid that this law could be used to shield those who could maliciously act out against those who identify as LGBTQ. The Diocese of Cheyenne recognizes this concern and encourages whatever steps are necessary to prevent such unintended consequences from occurring. As with all proposed legislation, it is difficult to foresee every potential consequence of HB135, should it become law. This is all the more reason for an open and robust discussion regarding the bill. If amendments can be added to prevent such unintended consequences, they must be added.

But some LGBTQ advocacy groups are trying to kill the bill before it reaches committee by denying concerns regarding religious freedom and implying that those bringing the bill are motivated by hatred. This approach will not foster an atmosphere of dialogue, and the resulting polarization is not beneficial for either those who are concerned about religious freedom or for those concerned about LGBTQ rights.

To be clear, our concern for religious freedom extends well beyond issues surrounding marriage. We have also seen conscience protections being violated with regard to abortion and healthcare requirements. Proponents will acknowledge that conscience rights are being violated but justify it by saying that Roe vs. Wade, the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act and now Obergefell vs. Hodges are the “law of the land.” This does not comport with a “live and let live” philosophy. And much of the fear that has come about with the new presidential administration reveals that we are in an unprecedented time. Disregarding the conscientious objections of others by citing new “laws of the land” may seem acceptable when the powers that be share one’s own principles. But what happens when a new administration does not? Suddenly, we see that violating conscience is a line that ought to only be crossed with tremendous care. This is a lesson our founders understood very well.

In 2015, a city ordinance was passed in Laramie that outlaws discrimination against persons, not only for their “perceived” sexual orientation or gender identity but also for the expression of such an identity. (Read the ordinance here.) This ordinance goes beyond the mere protection of persons; it also codifies behavior, and all behavior has a moral quality. The Laramie City Council made a judgment regarding the morality of such associated behaviors and enshrined its judgment into law. According to the ordinance, “Any violation of this chapter shall be an offense punishable by a fine of up to seven hundred fifty dollars or a jail sentence of up to six months or both.” To avoid such a punishment anyone found guilty could agree to conciliation which may include ‘“sensitivity training” for respondent and/or respondent’s employees; the respondent’s agreement to adopt and pursue a policy of non-discrimination.’ Exactly what “sensitivity training” would consist of and who would be responsible for providing it is unclear.

In a political environment where simply disagreeing with someone is grounds for being accused of hatred, racism and bigotry, such an ordinance is cause for concern.

Other Wyoming towns have adopted resolutions elevating “sexual orientation and gender identity” as a protected class. While these resolutions do not have the same force as an ordinance, they have taken the step of codifying “sexual orientation and gender identity” language. Wyoming Equality has identified the Laramie ordinance as the blueprint it would like to see for the whole state of Wyoming.

A short time ago, those advocating for LGBTQ rights centered their plea on the idea of marriage “equality.” Today, people who identify as LGBTQ enjoy the same rights and freedoms other citizens in the state enjoy– unless they share the Catholic view of what constitutes a marriage. In that case, this segment of the population may soon find that certain government jobs are off limits to them.

I want to be very clear. I am not suggesting that passage of HB135 will solve all of our concerns regarding religious freedom. Neither will passing statewide legislation equivalent to the Laramie City Ordinance solve all of the concerns of those advocating for LGBTQ rights. I am saying that polarizing rhetoric and fear-based decisions do not provide a way forward. Please, read this bill for yourselves. But do so within the context of our current political climate. Ask yourself, “If advocates for religious freedom rights accomplish all of their goals, what will that mean for people in the LGBTQ community? If advocates for LGBTQ rights accomplish all of their goals, what will that mean for people in the faith community?” Consider what the end game looks like for all involved.

Finally, have the courage to engage in dialogue. Resist the temptation to shout down the voices of those who have opposing views. Remember to respect the dignity of all people. Pray for our legislators and for everyone you disagree with.

Peace,

Mike

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Interfaith Prayer Service reflection

I am posting Father Carl Gallinger’s reflection from yesterday’s Interfaith Prayer Service (Jan 10) which is worth studying and praying over. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who came!
Deacon Mike

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” -Colossians 3:12-15

We are indeed a blessed people. In the providence of God, we, by birth and/or by choice, reside in this country and the great State of Wyoming. The privilege of residency calls forth an obligation from each of us to exercise our freedom in creating a more just society.

God created each of us as unique and independent images of Himself with a human nature that is both personal and communal. Inalienable rights, given to us by God, are to be respected by all and upheld by civil authority. Among these rights is certainly the freedom of religion as stated by Pope Emeritus Benedict, “the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public.” The subsequent healthy pluralism, where respect is exercised by all, does not entail privatizing religion in an attempt to reduce the experience to a matter of individual conscience or
confine it to churches, synagogues or mosques.

Rather, the “marketplace” of ideas needs to be open and receptive to all. A robust conversation regarding the values we all hold as important, is a first step in discerning what is truly just and right. Here, each person has the opportunity to contribute not only to the dialogue, but to take personal ownership for the eventual outcome; a more perfect and just society.

Devotions on Emergent Occasions, a wonderful poem by John Donne, contain the now common phrase, “No man is an island.” Thomas Merton, a great American mystic and Catholic writer of the last century, used the line several times in a series of essays published under the same title. This collection of essays reflects upon the social character of humanity and the noble call to serve those relationships well. Our social interdependence surely calls each of us to greater humility, reverence for one another and a decision to listen which hopefully results in a choice to suspend judgment of persons who may not think or believe the same as us. In a time when casting aspersions is all too common and far too easy, we must elevate our discourse in the political process.

By creating a more hospitable political climate, we open the door to greater participation. Each of us is called to take an active role in public life. To be engaged with political l
ife is to fulfill our responsibility as an active participant in our common life. This ethical obligation in furthering the common good does call for a renewed conversation of social partners. Each of us must examine our own conscience to ensure past decisions were free, as much as possible, from self-serving motivations or banal self-satisfaction. This examination better prepares us to enter dialogue anew. Conscience finds its rightful place in our willingness to submit our choices to the litmus test of truth. Surely, there is no better place for us to stand as we anticipate our new legislative session.

Our reading from the Christian Testament stated eloquently the call “put on love that is the bond of perfection.” In the Christian context, love is ultimately a decision, not a feeling. Exercising this decision in building up the common good requires, as Paul states to the Colossians, “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” Justice is fulfilled when each person contributes to the common good in accord with his or her abilities and in light of the needs of others.

While the competing needs of others are critical in our political conversation, there is a certain preferential option for the poor. Those who have no voice in the public square, who have limited or no access to the above mentioned “marketplace” of ideas, needs advocates and representation. How well the poor are treated by societal structures and laws reveal not only applied justice, but the strength and character of a particular community.

This community, the great State of Wyoming, deserves our very best thinking, reflection, prayer and conversation as we embark on our sixty-fourth legislature. May March 3rd find us well-spent and grateful for the good work accomplished in a spirit of generosity, respect and humility.