It has been a busy couple of weeks on the advocacy front now that the legislature has dealt with the state budget. Speaking of the budget, you have heard the democratic majority passed a budget that effectively eliminates the possibility of a government shutdown in July. The budget funds ongoing state services with certainty and stability without raising taxes. Given the unfortunate volatility in the statehouse, I believe this will be a good thing as the remaining public policy initiatives and new spending can be addressed without the distraction of a disruption to state government.
We have testified to support expanding health care (LD 199) to new asylum seekers and refugees, common sense gun safety (LD 22, 60, 168), and maintaining the ban on religious exemptions for vaccines (LD 51, 1098, 1209).
Expanding Health Care
The Episcopal Church believes that all Maine people, no matter where they come from, should have access to affordable healthcare and should be able to see a doctor when needed. Exclusions based on immigration status are unfair and short-sighted, and they harm our community health.
Without health coverage, many low-income immigrants must wait until a condition becomes an emergency to get care, further endangering their health and putting added stress on our overburdened emergency departments. Children’s access to health care improves when their parents have health coverage. Children’s physical, mental, and emotional health are impacted by the wellbeing of their caretakers – whole families need care to thrive.
The Episcopal Church stresses the importance of demonstrating hospitality and welcome as Christian values at the local level. LD 199 continues Maine’s work of improving access to health care that started with Medicaid expansion, making our healthcare system more equitable and our workforce more resilient. Immigrants are essential parts of Maine’s communities and our future. It’s time we honor their human right to health care and pass this bill.
Most religious Americans, including Episcopalians, believe gun reform is necessary to save lives. Religious Americans overwhelmingly support commonsense policies aimed at gun violence prevention. One study found that most Americans affiliated with a religious community – 84 percent of Buddhist, Catholic, evangelical, and mainline Protestant, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon, and Muslims – support background checks for all gun sales.
Because our faith binds us to Christ and to one another, The Episcopal Church does not recognize a religious exemption from vaccinations for our members. In fact, we affirm the importance of vaccinations for the health of individuals and communities, and we urge people to be vaccinated and to encourage others to do the same. This position was formally declared in a resolution of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church in June of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began.
The Episcopal Church recognizes no claim of theological or religious exemption from vaccination for our members and reiterates the spirit of General Convention policies that Episcopalians should seek the counsel of experienced medical professionals, scientific research, and epidemiological evidence.
The Diocese of Maine stands firmly with this resolution and does not make provision for a religious exemption from the COVID-10 vaccine, nor from any other medically safe vaccine. We have urged our members to be vaccinated and to tell the story of their vaccination experience to others as encouragement for others to get vaccinated.
The top three priority bills of the Environmental Priorities Coalition have not yet had a public hearing. The issues are: Tribal Sovereignty, Offshore Wind and Environmental Justice. You can read about these and the other four bills here.
As these bills wind through the legislative process, I will keep everyone updated on how you can weigh in with your own State Representatives and Senators. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.