CCO Fall Newsletter
Happy fall from the Catholic Conference of Ohio! We hope that you enjoy our new platform that will send newsletters and advocacy alerts to you. The Conference looks forward to activating Catholics throughout Ohio to use their voice in advocating for policies and principles that transcend partisan politics and advance the common good. In all things, we seek to proclaim our devotion to Jesus Christ, His teachings, and our love of neighbor.
November 2022 Election
With the November 2022 election impending, the Conference encourages all Catholics to advocate on issues according to Catholic Social Teaching. We also encourage all citizens, including candidates and elected officials, to commit to Civilize It in their encounters and interactions. The USCCB campaign follows Pope Francis' call to seek a better kind of politics. See this Catholic Conference reflection sheet on choosing political candidates and additional election resources from the Conference here.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 8 and early voting began on October 12. Click here for information on the two proposed Constitutional Amendments on your Ohio ballot. For general voting information in Ohio, click here.
Abolish the Death Penalty
We continue advocacy in support of Ohio House and Senate bills to abolish the death penalty. The Catholic opposition to the death penalty adheres to the Church's promotion of a culture of life from conception to natural death. See more from Pope Francis' September prayer intention HERE.
Take action by contacting your legislator through our new alert Abolish the Death Penalty.
This past month, the Conference met with representatives from countries in the European Union (Germany, France, Sweden, Italy, Estonia, Belgium, Spain, and more) in Columbus to explain the Church's opposition to the death penalty and her vision for a culture of life. We were grateful to hear their perspectives on rehabilitation and emphasis on international law and human rights.
Catholic Conference and EU Country Representatives
Respect Life Month and 'Radical Solidarity'
During Respect Life Month in October, we strongly encourage you to seek out ‘radical solidarity,’ making the good of others our own good, especially mothers and babies (born and unborn). Let us remember that we belong to each other and ensure that women in need never walk alone.
See the USCCB statement for Respect Life month HERE.
Pro-Life, Women, and Family Initiatives
As the Catholic Conference of Ohio continues advocacy to protect human life in all stages and circumstances, we also ask legislators to enhance specific support for women, children, and families. These generally include:
- Passing HB 142 to expand Medicaid coverage of perinatal doulas
- Making the adoption tax credit refundable
- Promotional campaigns to educate Ohioans on adoption and foster care
- Counseling and postnatal medical care for birth parents and adoptive families
- Considering a state-level refundable child tax credit or allowance
- Expanding affordable housing specifically for families
- Prioritizing social support and wellbeing of homeless pregnant and parenting women
Bishop Bonnar at the Ohio March for Life
Bishop David Bonnar, Diocese of Youngstown, joined Ohioans of all ages for the March for Life earlier this month in Columbus. He celebrated a Mass for life before providing the opening prayer at the rally in front of the Statehouse. In his homily, Bishop Bonnar urged attendees to recognize that the unborn need our voice and attention to welcome, cherish, and safeguard their lives. He also asked attendees to remain in frequent prayer and commit to walking with women and families in need. Click here to read Bishop Bonnar's homily.
The Catholic Commitment to Life and Walking with Women in Need in Ohio
The Ohio Catholic Bishops responded to the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in June. They wrote, “The Catholic Bishops of Ohio are encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This is a positive step toward a desperately needed conversion to a culture of life in our country, one that respects the inherent dignity and sacredness of every human being from conception to natural death. This decision enables the possibility to fully protect the lives of preborn children. The Catholic Church in Ohio – including its dioceses, eparchies, parishes, and social service ministries – remains committed to serving women in crisis pregnancies, both before and after delivery, with both material resources and personal accompaniment so that they can flourish and contribute to the common good.”
See the full statement HERE.
Safer Communities Act
In June, President Biden signed S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, into law. The USCCB supported the bill, and both of Ohio’s U.S. Senators voted for the bill, as well as a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives from Ohio. The Conference joins the USCCB in welcoming its passage while we urge the Ohio General Assembly to enact an Extreme Risk Protection Order (“Red Flag Law”) program with funds from the Safer Communities Act. Such action, enacted by 19 other states for the common good, can serve as a modest step to limit the gun violence that plagues Ohio’s cities and villages.
Conference Education Related Updates
Ed Choice Expansion (the income-based scholarship program) has been further expanded. The program now allows a first-time Expansion scholarship to be awarded to a student if the student's sibling received an Expansion scholarship in the prior school year or will receive an Expansion scholarship in the same year. Repealed is the provision that reduces the Expansion scholarship amount when family income increases beyond 250 percent of the federal income poverty level.
Ohio School Safety Grants: Ohio's biennial budget for FY 22 and FY 23 authorizes the Department of Public Safety and Ohio Emergency Management Agency to provide grant funding to nonprofit organizations, houses of worship, chartered nonpublic schools, and licensed professionals for eligible security improvements that assist in preventing or responding to acts of violence. The SFY 2023 Ohio Security Grant notice of Funding Opportunity with additional guidance and application forms is posted on this website.
Ohio Capital Budget Bill (HB 687) includes $100 million for school security and safety grants. The federal American Rescue Plan funding will cover a new round of school safety grants for public, private, and parochial schools. The grants can pay for baseline security in school buildings, classrooms, parking lots, and elsewhere on school property. The grants will also cover security features such as visitor badging systems, facility mapping, school radio systems, GPS tracking on student transport vehicles, exterior lights, notification systems, security training, and door locking systems. The Ohio School Safety Center is developing the grant application for funding distribution.
Catholic and other chartered nonpublic schools can now use state money through the Auxiliary Services program to procure and pay for security services. The services must be from a county sheriff or a township or municipal police force or a person certified through the Ohio peace officer training commission as special police, a security guard, or a privately employed person serving in a police capacity for nonpublic schools in the public school district.
HB 290 Backpack Scholarship Program would make all K-12 students eligible to receive an education savings account: $5,500 for students in K-8; $7,500 for students in grades 9-12. This bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. No further action has been undertaken to date. However, this bill or a Senate version of universal school-choice legislation may be discussed during the lame-duck session (November and December 2022). Similar legislation could be re-introduced in the 135th General Assembly, which begins January 2023.
Ed Choice Lawsuit - A coalition of school districts has challenged the constitutionality of the EdChoice Scholarship Program. The challenge primarily focuses on a section (Article VI, Section 2) of the Ohio Constitution that calls for securing a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state and states that no religious sector shall have exclusive right or control of school funds of the state.
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jaiza Page granted two motions for parents to intervene in the case: a group of parents who use Ed Choice scholarships to send their children to Catholic schools and another set of families supported by the Institute for Justice.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a motion in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion states in part: “No plaintiffs — the coalition, districts, or individual students — have standing, because none have pleaded that they were concretely or uniquely injured by the existence of voucher funding to other students, nor that the education they offer or receive is impaired.” The Conference is awaiting the decision on that motion.
Mr. Jerry Freewalt has resigned from his position as Executive Director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio and his resignation has been accepted by the bishops of Ohio. Mr. Freewalt has accepted the position of Director of the Office of Social Concerns with the Diocese of Columbus. The bishops of Ohio are very grateful for Mr. Freewalt’s dedicated service to the Catholic people and dioceses of Ohio and gratified that he will continue to serve the mission of the Church in his new capacity.
With Mr. Freewalt’s departure, the bishops of Ohio have asked Ms. Carolyn Jurkowitz to return as interim director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio effective immediately, and she has accepted. The bishops are grateful for her agreement to assist at this time.
The Catholic Conference of Ohio is the official representative of the Catholic Church in public matters affecting the Church and the general welfare of the citizens of Ohio.