By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 9, 2017 | En Español
ATLANTA—Catholics are invited to join fellow believers from the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah for the annual Catholic Day at the Capitol.
The event, which is to include the participation of Bishop Luis R. Zarama, puts Catholics at the crossroads of faith and advocacy, promoting issues that uphold the dignity of all people.
Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, expects to talk about proposals in front of the Georgia Legislature important to the church.
Lawmakers are weighing various actions at the state level to keep an eye on, from church ownership of property to religious freedom and education funding to an expected Georgia Supreme Court decision, he said.
The Grace Scholars student scholarship organization could be affected by the education funding proposal and a court decision, Mulcahy said.
The state now caps the annual tax credits for the SSO program at $58 million. A lawmaker is proposing the amount be raised to $150 million and then increased $7.5 million annually until 2020. The popular program usually hits its funding ceiling within hours on the first day of eligibility.
With the program, taxpayers and corporations donate to student scholarship organizations. In return, they get state tax credits equal to the donation. The scholarships in turn help pay for students to attend private schools, including Catholic schools.
Grace Scholars, along with other similar organizations, is part of a case heard by the state’s highest court that challenged the constitutionality of the student scholarship tax credit program, Mulcahy said. Opponents have criticized the law for supporting religious schools with indirect public funding.
Catholic Day at the Capitol begins at 8 a.m. at Atlanta’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with a legislative briefing. After the workshops, the group will continue to the Capitol for the day, which will include an opportunity to meet with legislators.
Lunch will be provided. The event is scheduled to end at 1 p.m.
The event is free, but registration is requested, so that any late changes can be communicated.
The Georgia Catholic Conference provided this evaluation of issues in the 2017 session:
Education funding: Legislation is proposed to increase the annual tax credit cap for student scholarship organizations to $150 million. The bill does not incorporate all the principles that Grace Scholars supports. The Georgia Catholic Conference will remain neutral.
Church ownership of property: SB 72 would modify how Georgia law reviews church property disputes within hierarchical denominations. The Georgia Catholic Conference believes the Catholic property titles were sufficiently drawn so that a problem would be avoided in the case of a dispute. The conference will continue to follow.
Religious freedom: There has been much discussion, but there is only one bill introduced in the Senate—a constitutional amendment to neutralize the Blaine amendment. The Georgia Catholic Conference has supported this constitutional amendment in the past. As a constitutional amendment, it requires two-thirds support in both the Senate and House before it is put on the ballot in November 2018.
Abortion: The Georgia Catholic Conference has been in contact with Georgia Right to Life, Georgia Life Alliance and other groups. Little likelihood of significant anti-abortion legislation this session.
To register online, visit https://archatl.com/events/2017-catholic-day-capitol/. For more information, call 404-920-7340 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.