September 10, 2020
Dear Priests, Deacons, and Pastoral Leadership,
The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) is the common voice of the Catholic Bishops of the Archdiocese of Seattle, the Diocese of Spokane, and the Diocese of Yakima. We wish to notify you of our support and encouragement for setting up voter education and registration booths following Masses and during the week as you deem appropriate. In addition to voter registration, the purpose of these booths is to 1) encourage parishioners to “Check Reject” on Referendum 90 (R-90) to reject the new Comprehensive Sexual Health Education (CSHE) law and 2) inform the faithful of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops resource, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility. Any parish voter registration and education efforts must receive the express approval of the pastor. Parishes are encouraged to set up voter education and registration booths now through the weekend of October 31 – November 1.
Voter Registration Information. There are a number of deadlines and resources volunteers should take note of. Printed voter registration forms are available here: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/print-voter-registration-forms.aspx, or volunteers may also direct people to the voter registration website: https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx. Parish voter registration volunteers (or each registering voter) may mail in the completed registration forms. These forms must be received by your county’s election office before October 26 in order for the registrant to receive a ballot by mail. The initial mass mailing of ballots via USPS to registered voters will take place around October 16, but county election offices will continue to mail out ballots as voter registrations are received until October 26. Individuals may also register to vote in person at county elections offices through November 3, but they will also need to visit their county election office to obtain a ballot.
“Check Reject” on R-90. R-90 gives voters the opportunity to reject the CSHE law passed in March. Formerly Senate Bill 5395, this law requires state school districts to provide CSHE to all students in grades kindergarten through 12. The WSCC urges voters to “Check Reject” on R-90 for the following reasons:
- CSHE is not in line with Catholic teaching. It does not adequately address complex moral issues tied to human sexuality nor properly discuss sex within the context of marriage.
- Local communities cannot protect their own values. The Catholic principle of subsidiarity holds that certain issues are best dealt with locally. The sensitive matter of sex education is one such example of the appropriateness of handling some governmental issues at the local level. Locally elected school boards cannot fully determine their own policy in this sensitive area.
- As Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, states, “The right of parents to . . . educate their children in the bosom of the family must be safeguarded.” (No. 52).
- Districts can create their own curriculum based on 2005 Health Standards. However, the CSHE mandate is unfunded. Consequently, districts may be more inclined to use existing state curriculum that is not aligned with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
- Parents can opt their children out of classroom instruction, but they cannot opt them out of schoolyard discussions and the culture change that may take place at school as the result of CSHE.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. As the faithful seek advice on how to vote and think about public policy issues, they are encouraged to consult this USCCB teaching document, which may be accessed here: https://www.usccb.org/offices/justice-peace-human-development/forming-consciences-faithful-citizenship. Volunteers should be reminded that the Church does not support individual candidates or political parties, but does have specific teachings on public policy issues. Neither candidates nor parties should be endorsed at voter registration booths. As a reminder, only public policy materials from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or the WSCC may be used and distributed. There are a variety of groups each election cycle that distribute voter guides and claim to be “Catholic” but fail to fully align with principles outlined by the bishops.
COVID-19 Safety. Voter registration and education efforts should be conducted in compliance with parish safety and social distancing measures.
As we approach Election Day, thank you for your efforts to register parishioners to vote. While we do not support specific candidates or parties, we appreciate your work in helping the faithful form consciences in relation to Church teachings and public policy issues. Voter registration information and an R-90 fact sheet will also be available on the WSCC website, https://wacatholics.org/. Please direct any questions to the WSCC at (206) 301-0556 or wscc@WACatholics.org.
In the heart of Christ,
Most Rev. Paul D. Etienne Most Rev. Joseph J. Tyson Most Rev. Thomas A. Daly
Archbishop of Seattle Bishop of Yakima Bishop of Spokane
Most Rev. Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S. Most Rev. Daniel H. Mueggenborg
Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle
Please share the full context of the letter with your school communities: R-90 and Voter Registration Letter for archdiocese- WSCC