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Logical Fallacies 101: “No True Scotsman”

In political debate it is not uncommon to hear a phrase such as this: “no true Republican/Democrat would support such a proposition.” The problem with this fallacious argument is that it ignores the fact that a person can make a valid argument for an idea, even if that idea doesn’t fit one’s ideal of a particular party candidate or a particular party’s platform, and still be a Republican or Democrat.

Once the “no true Scotsman” moniker is proposed, the debate then focuses on what constitutes a true Republican or Democrat, rather than a discussion about the idea being proposed. As you listen to political debate, see if you can recognize the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

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Democracy Needs Virtue

Saint John Paul II once reminded Americans: “Democracy needs virtue… Democracy stands or falls with the truths and values it embodies and promotes.”

The American founders understood the fragility of democracy, and knew it could be destroyed without virtuous men and women. They had no illusions that the Constitution alone could save the American Republic.

John Adams declared: “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion… would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”

Virtue is required of citizens and public officials, of voters and political candidates. On leadership, Adams said: “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increases as the importance of the position increases.”

Even prior to policy prescriptions, leaders must set a moral example of how to live virtuously; otherwise, their words and promises cannot be trusted by the people. Indeed, where the bonds of trust break down between leaders and citizens, respect for authority is diminished and the common good is undermined.

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Migrant Tells of Desperate Attempt to Escape Gang Infested Neighborhood

What’s it like to be threatened by gang members high on drugs in your own neighborhood in San Salvador? What happens when you try to trek north to the U.S. and are kidnapped? Catholic Relief Services tells Pablo’s chilling story in a series of compelling video interviews. See CRS Migration Story for this story along with discussion of Pope Francis’ call for protection of the human rights of migrants.

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First MCC Messenger of 2016

Missouri Catholic Conference’s quarterly publication, The Messenger, will appear in diocesan newspapers this weekend. This issue focuses on the Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS) department of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO). Several former clients now work for RIS, and a few of their stories are shared in the first Messenger of 2016. 

Yusuf Mohammad is a Somali refugee who is now a caseworker for RIS. He fled Somalia after his father was killed. His story gave a chilling glimpse into the daily realities of many refugees. 

“Somalia is not a place to live,” he says. “It is a place to die.”

Along with these compelling stories, the publication includes an in-depth infographic that outlines the rigorous refugee screening process. We hope you find this issue of Messenger enjoyable and informing! You may read the full issue on our website. 

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MCC Urges Passage of Ethics Reform Legislation

This week the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) sent a letter to all members of the Missouri General Assembly urging prompt action on ethics reform legislation. The MCC letter noted that: “Ethics reform can restore trust in government.” 

The MCC urged support for banning lobbyists’ gifts to legislators, limits on campaign contributions and a one-year “cooling off” period before a retiring legislator could take a job with a lobbying firm. 

The MCC observed: “A legislator may feel that accepting a dinner or other gift from a lobbyist will not affect how he or she votes, but for the ordinary citizen a doubt is sown about whether the legislator is working for them or for well-funded insiders.” As a long-standing practice the MCC does not provide dinners or other gifts to legislators.

The MCC warned that requiring a photo ID for voting could have the unintended consequence of disenfranchising many voters, including the poor, the elderly, and those with disabilities. If such legislation is to pass, the MCC said it should include provisions for an extensive public awareness campaign that would alert voters to the new requirement and explain how free photo IDs could be obtained.

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Proposed State Budget Has Some Good News For Families in Need

Several programs of interest to the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) are being recommended for funding in Governor Nixon’s 2017 state budget. The governor is recommending funding of over $3.6 million for the Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) program. 

As recently as 2015 ATA was only funded at $1.5 million, so this is a substantial increase. It will allow non-profit pregnancy resource centers around the state to expand their services to low-income women facing crisis pregnancies. ATA services have been shown to persuade women to choose life over abortion.

The new Show-Me Healthy Babies program, which provides prenatal care to women and their unborn children, is recommended for funding of $13,597,790. 

A new program to bolster parental responsibility and healthy marriages is recommended for funding of $1.5 million. In passing welfare reform legislation last year, the MCC convinced lawmakers that the lack of strong families and especially the absence of fathers was a major cause of poverty. Legislators responded by amending the welfare legislation to include the new program.

Just because the governor has recommended these funding levels, however, does not mean the funding is guaranteed. All of the governor’s recommendations will be carefully scrutinized by the Missouri House and Senate budget committees and the entire budget must then be approved by the General Assembly.

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Ex-offenders Testify in Support of Expungement Bills

Recognizing the prison reform movement that is gaining popularity across the country, the Senate Judiciary Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence this week heard several bills that deal with the expungement of criminal records.  The bills included SB 588, sponsored by Sen. Dixon, (R-Springfield), SB 603 sponsored by Sen. Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City) and SB 942, sponsored by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis).  While there are differences in the bills, all the legislation would establish a process whereby ex-offenders could go through the court to have records of certain crimes sealed from the public.

Numerous ex-offenders  testified to the committee that an expungement process would allow them to put their past behind them and move forward. Several indicated how difficult it was, even years after completing their sentence, to find meaningful employment and support their families because of their criminal record.

The MCC supports the concept of expungement as it follows the principles of restorative justice by allowing ex-offenders the opportunity to be restored in the community once they have been held accountable for the harm they caused.

The committee took no actions on the expungement bills.

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General Assembly Convenes for 2016 Session

Wednesday the Missouri General Assembly convened for its 2016 session. House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Popular Bluff) set out some legislative priorities in an address to the Missouri House. See this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article for more on Richardson’s address. The new President Pro Tem of the Senate, Ron Richard (R-Joplin), skipped the customary opening speech and just told Senators to get to work.

Ethics reform will be a top priority for legislators. Numerous bills and proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced. Some of the ideas being proposed include: banning gifts from lobbyists to legislators; limiting campaign contributions and requiring a “cooling off” period before a legislator leaving office can become a lobbyist.

House Speaker Richardson is indicating he is not keen on spending large chunks of time on Right to Work. Last year the legislature passed a Right to Work bill but Governor Nixon vetoed it. The legislature failed to override the veto. See this St. Louis Post Dispatch article for more.

In the wake of the videos last summer showing officials of Planned Parenthood talking about the trade in fetal body parts, legislators are determined to prevent such practices in Missouri. Senator Bob Onder (R-St. Louis) has filed SB 644. (See “Pro-life Bill Addressing Planned Parenthood Videos Set For Hearing” article for more details.) The Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) will be working to pass pro-life bills like Senator Onder’s legislation.

Over the past several years, Missouri has refused to expand Medicaid despite the offer by the federal government to cover all of the costs. The expansion would enable more of the working poor to gain health coverage. The MCC supports both reform and expansion of Medicaid, but action in 2016 seems unlikely.

Both Republicans and Democrats appear interested in reforming the criminal justice system, including measures that would help ex-felons start new lives after serving their time in prison. (See “Criminal Justice Reform is in Vogue” for more details.)

In addition to considering hundreds of bills on a wide variety of topics, legislators must pass a state budget for fiscal year 2017, which begins July 1. This year the MCC will seek continued funding for services that help women choose life over abortion and assistance for refugees who have fled persecution in other parts of the globe.

These are just a few of the issues the MCC expects to surface in 2016. But each year there are surprises – issues that emerge that were not on anyone’s radar screen at the beginning of the year. Check the MCC Update each week for the latest developments

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Former Planned Parenthood Employee Tells Committee Her Texas Clinic Sold Body Parts

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee from Texas, told the House Committee this week that the Bryan, Texas clinic she directed sold fetal remains for $200.00 per unit between 2007 and 2009 while she was director and “lead abortion educator.”   She also said that the recently released videos confirm what she experienced personally was taking place while she was an employee at Planned Parenthood.

She explained to the committee that she walked away from the abortion business in 2009 after participating in an aspiration abortion, during which she was asked to hold the ultrasound probe while the abortionist performed the abortion.  While holding the probe, she witnessed a thirteen week old fetus that “fought and struggled for his life” when the aspiration cannula was introduced into the woman’s uterus.  For more about her compelling story, click here.

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Owner of St. Louis Pathology Lab Testifies At MO House Hearing On Planned Parenthood

The Missouri House Committee exploring Planned Parenthood’s practices in Missouri heard testimony this week from Dr. Robert Miller, the owner of Pathology Services, Inc., the lab that examines the fetal remains from abortions performed at Planned Parenthood’s clinic in St. Louis.

Dr. Miller testified that they receive the remains in containers as small as the size of a juice jar and as large as an ice cream container.  “As far as I know,” he stated, Planned Parenthood sends him all of the remains.  He conceded, however, “it is possible,” that they don’t.  They only perform microscopic exams on the remains if they see an abnormality.  Otherwise, the exams are done visually.

Documents produced by Attorney General Chris Koster reveal that the lab charges $7.00 to exam each container of remains.  For more on Dr. Miller’s testimony, click here.