Experts: Measure 1 Won’t Impact End-of-Life Care

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Experts in law, health care, bioethics, and elder care have released a statement confirming that Measure 1 will not impact the ability of North Dakotans or their families to make health care decisions at the end-of-life.

Opponents of Measure 1, which the North Dakota legislature placed on the ballot to protect the state’s common sense pro-life laws, have tried to scare voters by claiming the measure will prevent people from letting death take its natural course.  The experts, disagree.  They note that under state and federal law such rights are secure and that Measure 1 cannot legally change those rights.

Moreover, the experts note that the claims by the opponents rest on the false notion that letting someone die naturally is the same as killing; a notion long rejected legally, medically, and ethically.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference has long supported the use of health care directives and has distributed thousands of its own health care directive.  The conference also supports Measure 1 because it will not affect the use of those or any other health care directive.

The Statement on Misleading Representations About Measure 1 and End-of-Life Care Decisions is below:

ND End of Life Whitepaper 7-30final

The Humanitarian Crisis at our Border

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Concerns continue to mount over the safety and wellbeing of the tens of thousands ofunaccompanied children arriving at the southern border’s U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facilities.
The national debate on the legislative solution to the border crisis seems to be at a stalemate, with some,

such as President Obama, saying that we should eliminate the screening process that helps to ensure immigrant children are not victims of child trafficking or sexual exploitation. Others are saying that we should change the current law altogether to speed up the deportation process, without regard to the best interest of the child or adequate legal counsel for the children.

Both responses, which call for a more rapid expulsion of unaccompanied minors, seem to be generated by a misunderstanding of why many of these children are fleeing their home countries: they are targets of gangs or they face sexual violence or extortion at the hands of gang members.

The Church, along with other migration advocates, is calling for a different solution to this humanitarian crisis, one that protects the dignity and wellbeing of these young people by ensuring that they receive key due process protections in each of their cases.


Following is an update on the Catholic response to the situation and ways to get involved.


Message from Pope Francis

Pope Francis acknowledges that migrants present particular challenges to a nation, yet he emphasizes that we must not lose sight of the suffering of Christ in the vulnerable children mixed up in complex immigration issues, like the children currently in our U.S./Mexico border facilities:

“A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”
(Papal Letter to the Mexican Government on Unaccompanied Migrant Children, July 14, 2014)

Three Ways to Make a Difference

Respond to the border crisis by taking action today. Here are three ways you can make a difference. If you have….


Contact Congress
Urge your Senators and Representative to OPPOSE legislative efforts to strip away protections from unaccompanied children who are fleeing from violence in Central America and seeking refuge in the United States. CLICK HERE

Make a donation
Catholic Charities USA’s Disaster Operations team has been responding to this crisis since early June, providing a range of support to local agencies like partnering with government agencies to find shelter that can properly house children, finding bilingual volunteers and certified social workers, and collaborating with other U.S. Catholic Church organizations and service providers to identify and work towards long-term and short-term solutions to this crisis. CLICK HERE

More Time?
Find more resources about the crisis to share with your parish community by checking out the USCCB’s Unaccompanied Migrant Children Resource Kit.

USCCB Communications Sends Over 1,200 Donated Bibles to Unaccompanied Minors Detained in Arizona

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Over 1,200 Spanish Bibles donated by the American Bible Society and the publishing house Verbo Divino have gone to unaccompanied minors from Central America. Requested by Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, the Bibles were requested by the Department of Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to the approximately 1,000 young people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador detained by U.S. Border Patrol near Nogales, Arizona.

The American Bible Society donated some 1,000 Bibles and approximately 600 copies of “La Llave,” an edition specifically for young people. Verbo Divino donated 200 copies of their Catholic Family Bible.

Bishops Kicanas issued the call for bible donations to serve the spiritual needs of these children as they await an uncertain future. “Currently about 1,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered into the United States are being detained in a Border Patrol facility in Nogales, Arizona. They are all from Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador ­­– their physical needs are being attended to but the authorities wonder if Spanish [language] bibles could be given to the children while in the holding center to comfort them,” Bishop Kicanas said.  “Many have been through some troubling and traumatic situations.”

Several dioceses and Catholic Charities offices also have responded to the unaccompanied children crisis offering humanitarian aid. And recently, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, also issued a similar call to volunteers for donations of Spanish language bibles and new testaments to be shared with unaccompanied children and women at entry points along the southern border.

Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop Lori to Senate: Oppose Bill that Attacks Religious Freedom

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In a letter sent July 14 to all U.S. Senators, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore stated their “strong opposition to the misnamed ‘Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014’ (S. 2578).”  Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively.

“Though cast as a response to the Supreme Court’s narrow decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the bill ranges far beyond that decision, potentially attacking all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom regarding health coverage mandates,” they wrote.

The two bishops identified several areas of concern with the bill, including its unprecedented curtailment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993; its potential for overriding other federal conscience protections, including the Hyde-Weldon amendment on abortion; its application to coverage mandates beyond the HHS contraceptive mandate; its application to employers beyond for-profit businesses; and its denial of religious freedom for employees and their minor dependents, not just employers.

“In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty.  Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question. Nor does it show a genuine commitment to expanded health coverage, as it would pressure many Americans of faith to stop providing or purchasing health coverage altogether. We oppose the bill and urge you to reject it,” they wrote.

Full text of the letter is available online:

Oppose the Unprecedented Attack on Conscience and Religious Freedom

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As early as this week, the Senate may vote on a bill by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (S. 2578). This measure would not only reverse the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, but go far beyond. S. 2578 negates any right that employers, insurers or employees may have, under Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) or any other federal law, to opt out of federally mandated coverage.

Please do what you can to urge people to oppose S. 2578. See the NCHLA Action Alert

This misnamed measure could potentially empower federal officials to mandate abortion or any other item in all health plans, forcing Americans to violate their deeply held religious and moral beliefs on respect for human life.

Health Care Directives and Measure 1

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Did you know that the North Dakota Catholic Conference has distributed thousands of health care directives that allow people to make sure their health care wishes are respected?

Measure 1 will not interfere with those efforts or any end-of-life options.

Download the North Dakota Catholic Conference health care directives:

And get the truth about Measure 1:

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.36.04 AM

Setting the Record Straight on Hobby Lobby

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As soon as the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Hobby Lobby decision, critics of the decision began misrepresenting the opinion and its consequences. If a person were to believe some of the stuff appearing newspapers, press releases, and web sites, five Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court declared that all corporations are persons under the Constitution and that these corporations now have a constitutional right to impose their religious beliefs on others, including their employees. The truth is something different.File:ReligiousFreedomStamp-1

The Court’s opinion did not deem corporations to be persons under the Constitution. It merely concluded that the language and history of a statute passed by Congress made the statute applicable to closely-held corporations. It was hardly a sweeping opinion granting expansive corporate rights.

That statute is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 after Congress passed it almost unanimously.  It says a federal policy cannot “substantially burden” a person’s religious freedom, unless it serves a “compelling state interest” in a way that is “least restrictive” of that freedom.

Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration decided that it had the authority to force family businesses to provide contraceptives at no cost to its employees, even if the family had religious objections to providing such services. Hobby Lobby and the other challengers objected to just four of the twenty required contraceptives because those four may operate after the fertilization of an egg, effectively acting as an abortifacient.

Some critics of the decision have called the Court “anti-science” because it did not look at studies purportedly showing that the four drugs only work to prevent fertilization. The Obama Administration, however, conceded that the four drugs may result in the destruction of an embryo. It is not the role of the Supreme Court to bring up and examine facts that are not in dispute. The Court was not being anti-science. It was respecting the judicial process.

The Court did not decide whether the Administration had a “compelling interest” in requiring employers to provide cost-free access to the four drugs. It did not have to make that decision because the burden imposed on the companies for not providing the four drugs was clearly substantial – fines in the millions of dollars – and because the government had a variety of other methods at its disposal to provide women the four drugs at no cost without requiring direct involvement by the companies.

It is important to remember that this decision is not about the Constitution. The Court was applying a unique set of facts – these four drugs, the particulars of the contraception mandate, and these three family businesses – to a specific law – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. People who do not like the decision should not blame the Court. It was Congress that overwhelmingly passed RFRA and the Obama Administration that so clearly disregarded it when it conjured up the mandate.

A lack of understanding of the law might be excusable if it was not coupled with not-so-thinly-veiled hostility toward the Catholic Church. From the Huffington Post, to a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, to a weekly columnist in North Dakota’s own Fargo Forum, anti-Catholicism, America’s last acceptable prejudice, rears its ugly head again.

Apparently unable to understand the law or direct their displeasure at the Obama Administration, these new Know-Nothings blame the five Roman Catholics consisting of the Court’s majority in the opinion. (A sixth Catholic, Justice Sotomayor sided with the minority.) If you don’t like the outcome, blame the Catholics. If you don’t understand the law, blame the Catholics.

For the record, neither the owners of Hobby Lobby or the other businesses involved in the case are Catholic. Nor was Congress controlled by Catholics when it passed RFRA in 1993. Nor, as some have alleged with conspiratorial overtones, did the Catholic Church finance Hobby Lobby’s legal challenge. But the record, like the law and the rest of the facts, are of no concern to those whose single focus appears to be hostility toward religion or a fanaticism for cost-free abortifacients.

Christopher Dodson, Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference
Read other columns . . .

USCCB Chairman Urges Obama Administration To Reconsider Proposed Policy To Return Unaccompanied Children to Their Home Countries Without Proper Due Process

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Administration requests fast track authority to return minors
Children with valid asylum claims could be returned to their persecutors
Bipartisan cooperation needed to humanely address issue

July 2, 20141934701_106085432284_2617810_n

WASHINGTON—Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called upon the Obama Administration, July 2, to reconsider their proposed request to Congress for “fast track” authority to expedite the removal of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America. Current law permits children from non-contiguous countries to remain in the country until their request for asylum or immigration relief is considered by an immigration judge.

“This is a very vulnerable population which has been targeted by organized crime networks in Central America,” said Bishop Elizondo. “To return them to these criminal elements without a proper adjudication of their cases is unconscionable.”

Under the policy of “expedited” removal, an individual is questioned by an immigration enforcement official without formal legal training in an effort to ascertain their fear of return. If the individual cannot adequately articulate a “credible” fear, they are immediately returned to their home countries. Children who are traumatized, without legal assistance and reluctant to speak to enforcement personnel rarely meet this standard.

“As a nation which has traditionally offered safe haven to those who are persecuted, this proposed policy undercuts our values as a nation,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The prospect of the United States sending vulnerable children back into the hands of violent criminals in their countries raises troubling questions about our moral character.”

“What we need is bipartisan cooperation to ensure that these children are protected,” said Bishop Elizondo. “This is an occasion in which we must rise above partisan politics and stand by our principles, namely compassion, justice, and adherence to our international obligations,” he said.

USCCB testimony on unaccompanied children can be found at

USCCB President, Diverse Religious Leaders Come Together To Urge Congress To Protect Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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FFF-engRFRA passed in 1993 with overwhelming bipartisan support

All religious faiths, including the most vulnerable, protected by federal law

Americans should be free to live and work according to their faith

July 1, 2014

WASHINGTON—A coalition of leaders of diverse U.S. religious denominations and faiths, including Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has announced that they “are united in [their] staunch support” for protecting the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in 1993. The coalition sent a letter to Congressional leadership June 30 asking that they “not amend or repeal RFRA, one of our nation’s most vital legal protections for the religious freedom and rights of conscience of every person of every faith.”

“RFRA is a highly flexible legal standard that protects the rights and liberties of individuals of all religious faiths, including the most vulnerable,” said the letter. “In the United States, freedom of religion has always included – and should always include – the right to live out one’s religion and act according to one’s conscience outside the walls of one’s house of worship.”

They added: “For over two decades, RFRA has protected Americans of all faiths from government coercion. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others all benefit when powerful government officials know that, as President Bill Clinton stated when he signed RFRA, government must meet ‘a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion.’”

Signers of the letter included leaders of the Assemblies of God (USA), the Church of God in Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Rabbinical Council of America, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Wesleyan Church.

Full text of the letter follows:

RE: Protecting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993

Dear Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and Minority Leader McConnell:

We are leaders of diverse faith communities representing over 100 million Americans. Our faith communities worship in many different ways, and we have different views on many things. But in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores), we are united in our staunch support for maintaining all of the existing provisions and protections of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). RFRA is a highly flexible legal standard that protects the rights and liberties of individuals of all religious faiths, including the most vulnerable.

The Supreme Court affirmed that all Americans – including family business owners – should be free to live and work according to their faith and receive the protections afforded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. When President Clinton signed RFRA into law over twenty years ago, he finalized the work of overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the United States House and Senate. Only three Members of Congress voted against RFRA. Not one of Congress’s 535 Members suggested that this landmark new law would not protect a person’s free exercise of religion if she chose to provide for herself, her family, and her employees by starting a business.

In the United States, freedom of religion has always included – and should always include – the right to live out one’s religion and act according to one’s conscience outside the walls of one’s house of worship. Every single day, millions of Americans are motivated by their faith to go and serve the neediest among us. The good works of these individuals of faith can be seen in soup kitchens, hospitals, schools, hospices – and, yes, family-owned businesses.

For over two decades, RFRA has protected Americans of all faiths from government coercion. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others all benefit when powerful government officials know that, as President Bill Clinton stated when he signed RFRA, government must meet “a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion.”

We have come together to write this letter with one specific plea: Do not amend or repeal RFRA, one of our nation’s most vital legal protections for the religious freedom and rights of conscience of every person of every faith.

Changing RFRA because some disagree with one particular application of the law would set a dark precedent by undermining the fundamental principle of religious freedom for all, even for those whose religious beliefs may be unpopular at the moment. Congress has never passed legislation with the specific purpose of reducing Americans’ religious freedom. It should not consider doing so now.

Freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, must stand for all Americans, for all time.

Statement by Christopher Dodson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference on Hobby Lobby Ruling

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Statement by Christopher Dodson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference on Hobby Lobby Ruling:

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case is an important step toward re-securing the religious freedoms upon which our country was founded and that are essential to human dignity.

No one should be required to give up their religious freedoms as a condition for running a business.   In a country founded on the principles of both economic liberty and religious freedom, the two should not be incompatible.

Moreover, people have a natural right to pursue economic opportunities, as well as a right to provide public services.  Denying this right to people who hold sincere religious beliefs is an offense to the dignity of the human person and ultimately undermines community.

While today’s victory is limited in its scope to certain for-profit companies, let us hope that it indicates that religious freedom will be secured for those who provide charitable and other services as well.