The California Catholic Conference is urging Catholics to let their voices be heard on a number of bills awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature this fall, including one — Assembly Bill 569 — the conference sees as a direct attack on religious freedom.
The governor has until Oct. 15 to act on the bills. As the statewide Church’s public policy arm, the conference has highlighted a number of measures they hope Catholic voters will lobby the governor, including measures dealing with abortion, immigration, child poverty, gender identity and human trafficking.
Assembly Bill 569 is one of the most controversial bills to cross Brown’s desk, and one that almost certainly will wind up in the courts should it become law.
The Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act would prohibit all employers, including religious ones, from taking “adverse action against an employee or their dependent or family member for their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device or medical service.”
The bill would also render “null and void” any contract or agreement — such as an employee handbook or code of conduct — that contradicts the proposed regulation.
The bill’s primary backer is NARAL Pro-Choice California, which contends it is needed to keep employers from firing employees who have abortions or who have babies out of wedlock. However, the Catholic conference and other opponents see it as a thinly disguised attack on any religious school, institution or agency that wants its employees to uphold its values, as well as serving as a potential open invitation to endless litigation.
The Catholic conference supports Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, which limits ways that state and local officials can cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, including restricting the ability of law enforcement to detain people on behalf of federal immigration officers.
Brown is expected to sign the bill, which immigration advocates contend is needed in California, home to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants.
The proposed law “is threading the prudent path between respect for human dignity and sensible community-policing, while resisting a brutish nativist polemic heard in some quarters,” the Catholic conference stated.
The Catholic conference is also urging Brown to sign Senate Bill 257, which would allow children of deported parents to continue to attend school here.
“The breaking up of families for deportation reasons is heartbreaking enough, but often children of deported parents are no longer eligible to attend school,” the conference stated. “Residency requirements mean students not only lose their parents but likely their friends and teachers — every fiber of their community.”
Senate Bill 743 would allow Medi-Cal patients to select any provider of family planning services and pay that provider at higher out-of-plan rates, the conference states. Furthermore, SB 743 “would allow patients to go wherever they want but only for family planning services, otherwise patients must stay with ‘in-plan’ providers.”
Pro-choice activists have supported the bill in the wake of federal efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. However, the conference sees the bill as another example of aggressive abortion activism.
“In an unrelenting effort to promote abortion, California legislators now want to provide even more funding for abortion providers at a time when the state claims it cannot afford to pay for critical health care for the State’s vulnerable population,” the conference stated, noting it hopes Brown vetoes the bill.
The conference supports Senate Bill 304, which would require that each county’s office of education and probation department develop and implement an individualized transition plan to meet the academic, behavioral, social-emotional and career needs of each court school pupil detained for more than four consecutive school days.
“In 2014, more than 47,000 California youth attended court schools while in juvenile detention, with the average stay being 30 to 40 days,” the conference stated. “Yet, the education credits earned by these students aren’t recognized when they exit and re-enroll in their local school districts.”
Senate Bill 179 would allow people to choose between “male,” “female” and “nonbinary” as their gender on such documents as driver’s licenses, without some of the current requirements, such as gender transition treatment. The conference opposes the bill.
“This bill, as currently written, makes the existing designations of the two genders ‘male’ and ‘female,’ rather meaningless for purposes of public law and societal interaction,” the conference said. “SB 179 proposes a rather expeditious, less researched, less discussed approach to various underlying public concerns.”
The conference also supports: Assembly Bill 1520, which would create a task force to examine how to lift children out of poverty; AB 1227, which would “promote education in how to avoid [human] trafficking in our schools and expand cooperation among responsible authorities”; and AB 490, which would extend the state’s college access tax credit fund.
Full story at Angelus.