By Christine Stoddard
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Catholic Advocacy Day, when members of the Virginia Catholic Conference voice their concerns on 2012 legislation, will take place Thursday in downtown Richmond.
Advocates will speak to Virginia legislators about such issues as the death penalty, religious freedom, health care and education, with a focus on “unborn life and ethical research standards.”
“It is extremely important for legislators to hear from their constituents,” said Jeff Caruso, the conference’s executive director.
“From the standpoint of our faith, we have a baptismal responsibility to love our neighbors, even the ones we cannot see, and make sure their needs are met by legislators.”
The Virginia Catholic Conference represents Bishop Paul Loverde, Diocese of Arlington, and Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, Diocese of Richmond, on matters of public policy before the Virginia General Assembly and the U.S. Congress.
At this year’s legislative session, the conference supports Senate Bills 279 and 484 and House Bills 261 and 464, which would require that a pregnant woman be given the chance to see the ultrasound image of her fetus before deciding to have an abortion.
The conference is also supporting HB 1162, which would ban embryonic stem-cell research. Furthermore, the conference opposes SB 58, HB 389 and HB 954, which could expand the definition of eligibility for the death penalty.
Another item on the agenda involves opposing SB 349 and HB 189, which would obligate religious adoption and foster-care agencies to provide services to same-sex couples.
In the realm of immigration, the conference supports HB 183, HB 782 and SB 568, which would help provide Medicaid and FAMIS Plan access for women and children who have legal permanent residency status within the first five years they have lived in the United States.
In terms of education, the conference supports HB 321, SB 241 and SB 131.
These bills would establish income tax credits for businesses that donate to create scholarship foundations that help low-income students attend nonpublic K-12 schools, including Catholic ones. The conference considers these bills in line with its “Education Improvement Scholarship” initiative.
Lastly, the conference will speak to legislators about “economic justice,” such as affordable housing and assistance for needy families.
According to the Virginia Catholic Conference website, “A good showing of participants can make a difference in how legislators act to defend life, the poor, immigrants, marriage, parental choice in education and religious freedom, among other issues important to the common good.”
Registration and breakfast will start at 8 a.m. Thursday in the Richmond SunTrust Center, 919 E. Main Street, fourth floor, with prayer and briefings beginning at 9 a.m. From there, advocates will visit the General Assembly Building, hold Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, eat lunch and debrief. The event will end at 1:30 p.m.
Buses to Richmond will leave from Arlington, Charlottesville, Roanoke and Tidewater early Thursday morning.
The Virginia Catholic Conference began sponsoring Catholic Advocacy Day activities in 2005.
Advocates can register to participate at VACatholic.org, where the schedule and instructions are also available in Spanish.
This CNS article was published by news organizations that include the Arlington Catholic Herald and EmporiaNews.com.