Wrestling With the Common Good
Many faith traditions lift up the importance of seeking the Common Good. It is easier said than done, and political decision-makers struggle daily with common good questions about education, health care and balanced budgets. But lately it seems like the choices are increasingly polarized and we need judges just to act as referees.
This week, the Supreme Court handed down two decisions that will have a significant impact on the common good of millions of Americans. In the decision over Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law, the court disallowed those provisions that make it a misdemeanor to be undocumented in Arizona or to seek employment there, as they usurp the authority of the federal government. The court upheld the provisions that allow state and local law enforcement to check immigration status while in the course of other investigations or duties, but warned that they guard against racial profiling. This glass half full response is not the slam dunk denial of SB1070 that advocates of immigration reform wanted, but the court struck down the more punitive aspects of the law and set the stage for advocates and government watchdogs to keep an eye on racial profiling.
The ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) surprised a lot of people because many of us, myself included, were uncertain that the individual mandate to purchase insurance would stand. Five of the nine justices agreed that the mandate is legal and cited the authority of the federal government to tax it's citizens. The court limited the actions that the federal government can take to enforce state implementation of Medicaid expansion, but in the broadest sense, the Affordable Care Act was declared constitutional.
It is important that we wrestle with big questions like who has what rights and under what circumstances can we offer common solutions to problems like health care, that we can’t take on alone. We have a lot of work ahead of us to arrive at a better immigration policy and I hope that Congress and the President will work to move the country forward on this issue. The Virginia Interfaith Center has created a set of principles for compassionate immigration policies at both the state and federal levels, which we invite you to sign on to. We encourage you to learn more about immigration policy and consider how it affects us in Virginia.
The Center is also actively addressing the issue of health care as part of Virginia Consumer Voices for Health Care, a state-wide coalition of groups that is educating Virginians about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and helping them share their views with state legislators and the Governor. Approximately 1 million Virginians are currently without health insurance and we are working to make sure that the ACA provides effective and affordable coverage. If the ACA is implemented effectively, millions of Americans will be able to buy affordable insurance and will no longer be denied due to pre-existing conditions. Visit their website to learn more and sign up for emails to stay informed about how health care gets implemented in Virginia.
Whatever your position on these contentious policy issues, I hope you will find our motto helpful – Learn, Pray, Act. The Common Good with worth wrestling over.