I recently received a call from Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the Minnesota bishop sponsored organizer of Catholics at the Capital, asking if either or both of our parishes might sponsor a candidate town hall before the elections.
It is easier than you might expect.
MCC provides abundant materials to make it simple. They sent a list of Frequently Asked Questions, some of which I am providing below. More information can be found here. Please contact me if you might be interested in organizing a candidate town hall.
Why are Catholic parishes encouraged to host candidate town halls? Why now?
On November 3rd, 2020, every Minnesota state house and senate seat will be up for election. Candidates who are elected will consider important issues of life and human dignity in future legislative sessions. The advocacy of the lay faithful has a massive impact in these areas, and as Pope Francis said, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”
Shouldn’t religious groups stay out of politics?
No. The beauty of our system of government is that it allows different people, with different beliefs and visions, to come together and discuss how best to govern. The “separation of Church and State,” refers to a prohibition on government meddling in the affairs of religion—not the other way around.
What are the practical benefits of hosting a candidate town hall?
Parishioners will hear what candidates themselves have to say on issues of concern to your parish and the wider Catholic community. Candidates will hear about those same issues, perhaps for the first time, and will be compelled to give them more thought, and perhaps even commit to a position that promotes the life and dignity of the human person. We need to be in ongoing dialogue with our public officials, and the candidate town hall is a first step.
Where should we hold our candidate town hall?
You will want to host the candidate town hall either at your parish or online, a decision to be made based on your situation as a parish. If holding an in-person town hall works for your parish, you may want to consider livestreaming the town hall and/or recording it for parishioners to view later.
How many of the candidates in our district will attend the town hall?
We have provided the names and contact information of the candidates in both your House and Senate district in our initial mailing to pastors. You have the opportunity to host two town halls–one for the State House election and one for the State Senate election.
What policy issues will we discuss? How will the moderator know what questions to ask?
We encourage you to discuss the policy priorities of Minnesota’s Catholic bishops, which are found in the Parish Candidate Town halls: Preparation and Structure document, included in the initial mailing to pastors and found online at www.MNCatholic.org/Town hall. Your parishioners will also have the opportunity to ask questions to each candidate.
Has my diocese approved of this event?
Yes, your diocese approves of this event.