Archbishop William Lori praised the DREAM Act in a statement posted today, as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues with its fall general assembly in his archdiocese.
The prelate, who is also the leader of the bishops' ad hoc committee on religious freedom, noted the work of the Church and others in changing public perception of the bill. Early polls showed a large majority of Marylanders against the legislation.
"Most people heard the word 'illegal' and were immediately against any benefits for someone not in the country legally.In short, they saw it as rewarding people breaking the law," Archbishop Lori said. "A dramatic change in the public's perception of this law took place during the months between its passage and the referendum vote in last week's election.The change occurred after the Church and others conducted a public education campaign helping voters see the fairness and justice of the law and how it benefits children and society."
He noted that the education campaign emphasized facts about the law including that the students or their parents had to show proof of paying taxes, and that students without a legal status have to have graduated from and attended a Maryland high school for at least three years, and first attend a community college for two years prior to applying to a four-year university."
Archbishop Lori also emphasized the Church's constant support for education.
"[W]e reminded our Catholic faithful of our rich history of offering educational opportunities to the disadvantaged, that opening the doors to education has been a hallmark of the Church's outreach since the earliest days of our country.Countless generations of immigrants have integrated into American society thanks to their education in our Catholic schools," he said. "[...]Whenever possible, the Church has always advocated for policies that allow all young people, regardless of their ethnicity, creed, legal status or economic means, equal access to educational opportunities."
Archbishop Lori also observed that the Church's support for the DREAM Act is evidence that the Church is above party lines.
"The Church's support for the DREAM Act, something favored by Democrats, juxtaposed our support for marriage between one woman and one man, something also on the ballot in Maryland and which was supported by Republicans.This revealed in stark clarity the Church's allegiance not to any one party's platform but to the Gospel values taught to us by our Lord Jesus Christ."
The measure to protect marriage lost in Maryland, though by a slim margin -- 52% who voted to uphold what is called the Civil Marriage Protection Act. Tuesday's vote in Maryland and similar votes in Maine and Washington, represent the first time that same-sex "marriage" was upheld by popular vote. Similarly, in Minnesota, voters chose to reject a state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman.