Bishop meets with Catholic legislators at breakfast

COLUMBIA—A big thank you went out to Catholic legislators and the state Attorney General Alan Wilson at the annual breakfast with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone March 21.

The bishop said he was grateful for their continued support on matters of import to Catholics in the state, such as life issues and the controversial health care law.

This is the third year that Bishop Guglielmone and Msgr. Richard D. Harris, vicar general, have  met state representatives for breakfast and fellowship at the S.C. Supreme Court in Columbia. It is hosted each year by Chief Justice Jean H. Toal.

“I think that getting to know each other is important,” the bishop said.

“To sit down with me and for us to talk to each other is a good thing.”

He noted that Catholic legislators are an anomaly in South Carolina and said it’s essential to  reconnect on a personal level each year and discuss relevant issues.

In particular, the bishop offered his sincere gratitude for the state’s defense of religious  freedom.

Henry McMaster, former attorney general, joined 12 other states in April 2010 in a lawsuit  challenging the healthcare reform law.

The suit claims the legislation, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama, is unconstitutional.

Wilson, who took office in January 2011, reiterated the state’s position on the mandate and said South Carolina would oppose it in court.

Also, in February 2012, he and other attorneys general wrote a letter on the issue to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal agencies.

Wilson said the proposed action would be “an unprecedented and troubling coercion of  organizations and individuals to act contrary to their religious beliefs.”

Bishop Guglielmone said he’s convinced the state will do whatever it can legally to support freedom of religion, which is one of his top concerns.

Other issues he spoke about at breakfast include the continued support of life issues, from  birth to natural death; a concern for immigrants and the well-being of the family; and school choice.

The bishop said school choice is about giving children in poverty as many opportunities as possible to receive a strong education and improve their lives. A revamped school choice bill was recently passed by the House Ways and Means Committee by a 16-8 margin. The bill  would give parents who send their children to private school a $4,000 state income tax deduction for each child. Homeschooled children could receive a $2,000 tax deduction for education-related expenses, and children sent to public schools outside their normal attendance zones would qualify for a $1,000 deduction. The next vote will be before the full  House.

Bishop Guglielmone said the breakfast drew a crowd of about 20 state representatives.