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As with any “short” 60-day session, there are many events taking place simultaneously. Bill introductions. Bill analysis. Floor debate. Committee hearings. Advocacy. Negotiations. There is no shortage of excitement, even if there is a shortage of sleep for those closely working at and with the Unicameral. Given so many things taking place, I thought it’d be good to give you some bite-size samplings of what is taking place.

The United States is at a pivotal point in its history. Deliberations for the historic Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization have spurred a national conversation about the future of abortion. Many states, including Nebraska, are reckoning with their abortion laws.

Take action. Your advocacy will be critical this legislative session. Stay in the know by joining the Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN). Through CANN e-mails, we will provide regular updates on the major issues taking place at the Capitol.

Deeply embedded in our political situation, structures of sin create obstacles to relief for the poor and vulnerable, the immigrant, the unborn, the un- and under-educated, the prisoner, among others.

There is no controversy over when human life begins. The truth of it is denied to shield pro-abortion ideological belief from examination of the logical consequences.

Roe may well be, at long last, on its way out. But two things are essential to remember: first, the reality of human weakness; and second, the notorious unreliability of anything said in these proceedings to predict how the Court will rule in six or seven months. In the interim, please persevere in prayer, every day, for these justices. God grant them wisdom and courage, and His will be done.

This legislative session will be marked by many great issues. The legislature will deal with major topics like pro-life, marriage and family, human sexuality, education and school choice, anti-poverty, criminal justice and juvenile justice reform, housing, immigration, among so many other important matters.

In the coming days, the Supreme Court will have the unique opportunity to alter the course of America’s history with abortion, which has already violated the human dignity of 62,000,000 preborn children, and millions of mothers and fathers. Opening arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are scheduled for Dec. 1.

Politics is not simply about striving for what might be useful or relevant in the moment, but it is about striving for what is good in the end. And such a question should also make us consider: what is “good” in the end?

May we strive to establish a society that keeps its eyes on Christ, the One Who heals us of our divisions, iniquities, and rancor, and makes us a people of justice and peace.

The Nebraska Department of Education’s (NDE) two-year attempt at state-wide comprehensive sexuality education standards was a divisive disaster. However, the state government’s foremost educational organization did unintentionally teach valuable lessons along the way.

The eruption caused by the Nebraska Department of Education’s (NDE) Health Standards now reverberates in local and national media outlets that are exposing hundreds of internal NDE emails.

One need not look very far into the political realities of our day to realize that there is a fundamental and adequate anthropology lacking in our public square. The unborn and the poor are discarded. The sick and the elderly are tossed aside. Human sexuality is conceived of as fluid and malleable. Marriage is redefined to mean everything and, therefore, nothing. Parental freedoms are usurped by the state. The list goes on.

In sum: our existence is pure gift, for which we owe gratitude. We are made in God’s image, therefore bearing great dignity, and are destined for unity with Him, which is in our power to accept. We are a unity of body and soul, neither of which is accidental. We are individual persons, but we are also radically dependent at every moment on God, others, and creation, and we have duties to all of them. We know who we are and where we ought to be going.

There are five categories of action that current pro-life leaders should take to embrace and develop the next generation of leaders, our young pro-life activists: recruitment, delegating responsibilities, development and training, welcoming new ideas, and creating leadership opportunities.

On Oct. 1, the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Catholic Church in the United States begins its annual Respect Life campaign. This campaign helps Catholics “understand and value the gift of human life and help build a culture that cherishes and protects it.”

In this year’s Respect Life Month Statement, Archbishop Joseph Naumann—who also happened to be this year’s pro-life banquet keynote speaker—says: “While attacks against human life seem to grow ever more numerous and callous, we know that Christ has conquered sin and death.” The archbishop continues, “Jesus asks us to be as leaven in the world, to bring His light to the darkness.”

It’s moments like the anniversary of 9/11 and the heroic witness of ordinary people like Todd Beamer that help us renew our patriotism. It’s these moments that cut through all the division and rancor that daily poison our politics and broader community life and redirect us to a healthy and reasonable love of country.

As people of faith, we know there’s no debate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: Parents and guardians are the primary educators of their children (no. 2223), and we demand the government honor this.

“Civilize It” seeks to charitably meet people where they are at, create a culture of human encounter between persons, and from that position strive toward understanding the Truth and how we can best strive for the common good.

This is why, as Catholics, we must pay attention to the law. It is constantly influencing the direction of life. The question is whether it is influencing it in the direction of the common or toward some otherwise adverse end.

It’s that time of year for you, your family, your friends, your parishioners, your neighbors, your enemies, and anybody else you can think of to register for this year’s Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet and Conference, which you can do at www.necatholic.org.

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) released their highly anticipated second draft of Health Standards July 29. Of particular interest is the Human Growth and Development portion of these standards. It is in this area that the NDE embedded troubling, ideological, and harmful concepts in the first draft.

In just under two months (Sept. 17 and 18), the Nebraska Catholic Conference will be hosting our annual Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet & Conference. After hosting last year’s event virtually via Zoom, we are thrilled to host an in-person gathering this year.

In the time of constant division, a 9-0 victory for religious liberty at the Supreme Court is not unnoticed and is an important building block for furthering protections of the 1st Amendment. It is something worth celebrating during this week when we reflect on the meaning of our country and its future.

We live in an age that misapprehends basic facts about the human person. Unborn babies are treated as non-persons and waste to be discarded. One’s biological sex is considered malleable and changeable at the drop of a hat. Marriage has been eviscerated of its meaning. Countless in poverty live without their most basic needs being met. Technology is a controlling feature of everyday life, alienating us from our very land, families, and communities. The list goes on.

The late Henry Hyde was a staunch pro-life U.S. Representative from Illinois from 1975 to 2007. An eloquent defender of unborn babies’ right to life, he was also a consistent champion of legislation that protected their lives and dignity, including the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

For the Nebraska Catholic Conference, LB108 and LB306 were both small, but important, steps toward ensuring some basic material needs of the poor are met. Both Catholic Social Services and Catholic Charities, the charitable arms of the Diocese of Lincoln and the Archdiocese of Omaha, respectively, had record-setting years in 2020 for poverty assistance.

Save the Date: Pro-Life Conference. The Nebraska Catholic Conference is happy to announce this year’s pro-life banquet and conference dates and theme. The theme is “A People of Life, and For Life: The Next 25 Years of Evangelium Vitae.” The year 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s famous encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). In light of that, this year’s banquet and conference will reflect on that incredible document and how it can be lived into the next 25 years, especially in light of the new threats and challenges the culture of death poses.

LB597 is worthy of support. It is a way to help families financially during a time of trial, suffering, and healing, which is also a time of increased financial cost for them. Our state and federal governments recognize through tax incentives the financial costs families bear to raise their children. LB597 is a recognition of the costs borne by families who have lost a child as well.

LB298 simply recognizes that there are immigrants among us—who work alongside us in our small businesses, schools, and factories—and we are called to make sure their basic needs are met in the same way ours are being met. If we were to become unemployed, we could qualify for the state’s unemployment insurance benefits program and get the stability of temporary public assistance while we pursue new employment. This basic safety net should also be extended to legally work-authorized immigrants in our midst.

LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, was debated by the Nebraska Legislature last Wednesday. Several State Senators tried to kill this bill, which would help provide private school scholarships to low-income families, with a filibuster. After an eight-hour debate, it fell four votes short of the 33 votes needed to break a filibuster. The vote was 29-18 (two were “present-not voting”).

Our schools thrive on community relationships, built upon a bedrock of local control and family engagement. Knowing the friends and community members who help our schools and communities thrive is critical to human flourishing. Pope Francis has often spoken on the theme of “alienation.” Whether the alienation is from our own family and friends who surround us or the land that we work around us, this alienation is contrary to our human spirit which seeks community with others and seeks to know God through the work of our hands.

Every parent deserves the ability to choose an education that is best for their child. No parent should be denied this fundamental right. LB364 helps families lacking financial means to exercise school choice by increasing the number of scholarships available to those families.

Parents know that every child learns differently and finding a good educational fit can make a world of difference. Families with financial means can move to a better school district or afford a private education, but not all families are so fortunate. They deserve to have educational choices too, no matter their income or zip code.

LB364, then, provides a clear opportunity for children from early childhood all the way through high school to find an educational setting that is best for them. This legislation provides clear opportunities for Nebraskans—like you and me—to make contributions to our education system, so that our state can continue to thrive not only for today but for generations to come.

As we near Easter, the words “Light of Christ” take on a particular force for each of us. They remind us that Christ is the Light of world through Whom nothing in this world will be left hidden in the dark and through Whom all things will be revealed.

As Lt. Gov. Foley said last week, sometimes we think that big issues about life, marriage and family, and education are questions for the White House or the Supreme Court. While those institutions and the decisions that come from them matter a great deal, we can do so much to effect change at the local level in our communities and state. Most important of all is what we do to show the truth and love of Christ in our own hearts and homes.

As legislative debate is underway, I want to point out some priority bills the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) is supporting.

The Nebraska Department of Education (“NDE”) recently released a first draft of Health Standards. These standards are meant to guide curriculum for all Nebraska schools, including public and non-public schools. The Health Standards contain flawed, ideologically driven content. They contain the very philosophical errors JPII addressed in The Theology of the Body.

As the Nebraska Legislature’s website states, a priority bill is a “bill that has priority status and is generally considered ahead of other bills in debate.” Another way to understand it is the following: the Legislature only has limited time to consider legislation and, since it can’t debate every bill that has been introduced, a priority bill is one a Senator or Committee thinks is so important that it should be considered before all other non-prioritized legislation.

Catholics at the Capitol is the Nebraska Catholic Conference’s annual legislative advocacy day. Our goal is to educate, equip, and engage Catholics to protect human dignity and advance the common good in Nebraska.

The State Legislature has been in all-day committee hearings for a month now, quickly moving through the 700-plus legislative bills and constitutional amendment resolutions introduced during the first 10 days of the session.

To provide another snapshot the NCC’s daily activities, I’d like to highlight last week’s legislation we lobbied during the committee hearing process. The issues ran the spectrum of Catholic social teaching.

For the past few years, the Nebraska Catholic Conference has been blessed to work with state senators to enact several laws protecting life and affirming the dignity of the human person.

What readers of the Southern Nebraska Register may not be aware of is the barrage of bad legislation—attacks on life, family, and the dignity of the human person—that we have so far successfully defended against at the same time. Those attacks have not slowed down in 2021, as the following bills reveal.

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