Opinion: Attorney general must defend our laws
The attorney general of Michigan is charged with defending the laws of our state. As the state’s top lawyer, Dana Nessel’s duty is to represent the state when those laws are challenged. The attorney general cannot pick and choose which laws to defend, but she is doing just that.
In 2015, the state Legislature passed Public Act 53 of 2015 to prohibit the state from requiring an adoption agency to violate its sincerely held religious beliefs and to ensure faith-based organizations could continue to be part of the state’s efforts to find permanent homes for children in need.
At the time, faith-based adoption agencies made clear that they would be in danger of suspending their work in Michigan if they were forced to violate their religious missions. These agencies comprise roughly 25 percent of licensed adoption agencies in the state, and shuttering of these agencies could result in fewer children being placed in forever homes.
The law states: “It is the intent of the legislature to protect child placing agencies’ free exercise of religion protected by the United States constitution and the state constitution of 1963. This amendatory act is not intended to limit or deny any person’s right to adopt a child or participate in foster care.”
Nessel recently announced that she will not defend the law, but instead will seek to settle a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state of Michigan. Nessel also withdrew the state’s action in eight lawsuits and vowed that she will not "undermine some of the most important values in our state.”
Translation: Nessel will not execute the responsibility of her office and defend the laws of our state, but she will use the attorney general’s office to further her personal agenda.
Not only is Nessel neglecting her responsibility as the state’s top attorney, she is attempting to legislate from her office. The attorney general is not the body of government that makes the laws. If her intent was to rewrite policy and statute, Nessel should have run for a seat in the Legislature. Instead, she campaigned for and was elected to the office charged with defense of state laws.
These recent actions by the attorney general are cause for great concern. Regardless of political affiliation, the individual elected to the office of attorney general has a responsibility to the constitution and to the laws of Michigan. Nessel must be exhorted to put her personal agenda aside and defend our state laws. It is her duty.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, represents the 16th state Senate District.