religious liberty

Protecting the right of conscientious objection to abortion

physicianThe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking for your help in urging Congress to protect the right of conscientious objection to abortion.
Can you imagine if you had spent years training to help the sick as a nurse – only to find that to keep your job, you must take part in the killing of a defenseless five-month-old unborn child? This happened to Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN, who was forced by her employer to participate in a late-term abortion against her deeply held pro-life beliefs. What’s worse, she found she had no right to go to court to keep this from happening to others. Check out this Youtube video to hear from Cathy about the situation.
The need for the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) has grown more urgent since last year, when the state of California started forcing almost all health plans in the state, including churches, to pay for elective abortions.
As we approach the Dec. 11 deadline for Congress to agree on a “must pass” year-end spending bill, we are working to include ANDA as a part of the package. To send a message to your members of Congress, go to
Thanks for your help with this.

Action Alert: Protect the Rights of Pro-Life Health Care Providers!

physicianNow is the time to urge Congress to protect the right of conscientious objection to abortion. Please urge your elected representatives to support the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA). This proposal is part of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HR 940), and is now included in the House’s Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2016 (HR 3020, secs. 530 (d) and (e)). Ask members to include this language in final must-pass funding legislation this year. Please take action today through the link below.

The need for this legislation has grown more urgent since last year, when the state of California started forcing almost all health plans in the state to pay for elective abortions, even late-term abortions. There is no exemption for religious or moral objections. A mandate for hospitals, even religious hospitals, to perform abortions could be next.

California’s coercive policy clearly violates a federal law known as the Weldon amendment, which forbids governments receiving federal health care funds to discriminate against those who decline to take part in abortion. Unfortunately, this and other existing laws have loopholes and legal weaknesses that make them ineffective against such challenges. For example, nurses threatened with loss of their jobs unless they assist in abortions have found they have no right to go to court to see the law enforced. Congress should reaffirm a principle that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support: Government should not force hospitals, doctors, nurses and other providers to stop offering much-needed health care because they cannot in conscience participate in destroying a developing human life.

Recommended Actions to take immediately:

  • Send e-mails through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center: Click Here.
  • Contact your Representative and Senators by phone. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, or call their local offices. Members’ mailing addresses may be found at or
  • Follow us on Twitter @nchla and retweet our posts. Repost this alert to Facebook or other social media platforms.


Suggested Message: “Please help ensure that the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), now included in the House’s Labor/HHS appropriations bill (Secs. 530 (d) and (e) of HR 3020), is enacted as part of end-of-year must-pass legislation. Government must not force Americans to violate their religious and moral beliefs about respect for life when they provide health services”.


For a letter, fact sheet, and video on this legislation, and other information on conscience rights, see

Bishop Cantú Urges Congress To Reauthorize International Religious Freedom Commission

1934701_106085432284_2617810_nWASHINGTON—With international religious freedom increasingly imperiled, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) must be reauthorized quickly so it can continue to “highlight the need to protect those who are discriminated against, harassed and even killed for their faith,” said the bishop who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a September 29 letter to Congress, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged legislators to support S. 2078, a bill that would extend USCIRF’s mandate for four years. The fact that Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) came together to support this bill in a bipartisan manner is a “welcome sign,” said Bishop Cantú. USCIRF’s mandate is set to expire today.

Bishop Cantú expressed the hope that swift passage of this bill would lead to broader discussion on how to protect religious freedom, which the Church views as a “cornerstone of the structure of human rights.”

Bishop Cantú reminded members of Congress that Pope Francis, in his recent visit, warned about efforts to suppress religious freedom, and asked everyone to join “in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.”

Full text of Bishop Cantú’s letter is available online:

Urge Congress to Reauthorize the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom

1934701_106085432284_2617810_nTake Action Now!

The Catholic Church views protection of religious freedom as a “cornerstone of the structure of human rights” since it is rooted in the dignity of the human person. USCCB worked with other faith-based groups and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to pass the landmark 1988 International Religious freedom Act (IRFA). IRFA created the Office of International Religious Freedom in the Department of State and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and Congressional leaders of both political parties. Their work is supported by a professional, nonpartisan staff. USCIRF has a proven track record of promoting human dignity and human rights around the world by monitoring and promoting religious freedom.

USCIRF is due to expire this September 30th unless legislation is passed for its reauthorization. Reauthorization of USCIRF is of critical importance to a wide range of U.S. religious believers/voters, U.S. and overseas NGO’s, and to religious communities and governments all over the world. This is not a Democrat or Republic issue or a concern of only a few Members. This is not a concern of only Christians or of the religious faiths most popular in the US. It is a bipartisan issue of concern to all US religious communities because around the world Bahia’s, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and members of newer and less numerous religions all experience persecution and discrimination in various countries.

Failure to reauthorize USCIRF will send a tremendously negative message to the international community. It will tell the worst offenders that our government is no longer truly interested in fighting for religious freedom and basic human rights of religious believers in their countries. If this happens, religious believers will be killed, jailed, and tortured.

Given the Church’s ongoing concern over the plight of Christians and other religious minorities, we strongly support a bipartisan bill to reauthorize USCIRF. We share the concerns of Pope Francis, “In today’s world, religious freedom is more often affirmed than put into practice.” Defending religious liberty “guarantees the growth and development of the entire community.” Please encourage Congress to lend their support for reauthorization.

See Bishop Oscar Cantu’s August 26, 2015 letter to Congress encouraging legislation for the reauthorization of USCIRF, in which he wrote, “Protecting religious freedom is critical to the health of societies.”

Write your Members of Congress now!

The Truth About Planned Parenthood

plannedparenthood34cThe Truth About Planned Parenthood

by Christopher Dodson, Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference

August 2015

Calls to defund Planned Parenthood renewed after the Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos that shows Planned Parenthood staff engaged in the collection and distribution of tissue and organs from aborted unborn children.  The center claims that the videos show Planned Parenthood engaged in illegal activity, including the sale of unborn body parts for profit.  Planned Parenthood claims that its actions were not for profit, were legal, and that defunding Planned Parenthood will deny access to women’s health and increase abortions.  When we examine the facts, it becomes clear that Planned Parenthood’s claims do not justify continued funding with our tax dollars.

Planned Parenthood does abortions, and lots of them

Planned Parenthood claims that only three percent of its services are abortions.  It arrives at this figure by counting every little service it provides, such as a pregnancy test, a Pap test, and tests for STDs.  Suppose, therefore, that a woman comes in for an abortion.  Planned Parenthood first tests if she’s pregnant, tests for STDs, conducts the abortion, and hands her contraceptives on the way out.  By Planned Parenthood’s figuring, only one-fourth of the activities conducted involved abortion.  Rich Lowry of the National Review noted that with this reasoning, “Major League Baseball teams could say that they sell about 20 million hot dogs and play 2,430 games in a season, so baseball is only .012 percent of what they do.”

Three percent is a lot and is three percent too much

Three percent of Planned Parenthood’s business comes to about 330,000 abortions a year.  That is 330,000 too many.  Any organization that does any abortions should forfeit access to taxpayer money.

Planned Parenthood is Anti-Religious Freedom

It is tempting to say that Planned Parenthood is all about abortion, but the truth is that the organization has included hostility toward religious freedom in its activities.  When North Dakota voters considered a religious freedom measure Planned Parenthood affiliates from around the nation contributed $1.2 Million toward its defeat.  They did this despite the fact that Planned Parenthood does not have a clinic in the state, the measure had nothing to do with “reproductive rights,” and many Planned Parenthood clinics operate in states with similar laws with no problems.

Don’t believe the claim that abortions will go up if Planned Parenthood loses tax funding or closes clinics 

This claim appeals to the belief that greater access to contraceptives would lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies and therefore fewer abortions.  The much ignored problem with this claim is that there exists little or no empirical evidence to support it.  In fact, most studies closely looking at the issue have found that the opposite is true.  For example, states and nations that fund and encourage high contraception access have higher rates and numbers  of abortions.  States like North Dakota that provide no funding for contraception have lower abortion rates.

Planned Parenthood’s Distraction Defense

Planned Parenthood claims the videos were edited.  Actually, the unedited versions were posted  at the same time.  Planned Parenthood claims that they were secretly and illegally filmed.  That might be true, but it does not change the substance of the videos.  Planned Parenthood claims that the people behind the videos are extremists.  Once again, who made the videos and what connections they might have had to other organizations is irrelevant.  It does not change the substance of the videos.

It does not matter that it was legal

Perhaps the most used distraction technique is the claim that what Planned Parenthood did is legal under federal law.  The Center for Medical Progress alleges that the videos show Planned Parenthood engaged in the trafficking of fetal body parts for a profit, something that is illegal under federal law.  The legal system will have to determine whether Planned Parenthood violated federal laws. In the meantime, we should not lose sight of the fact that even what Planned Parenthood admits to doing is unconscionable, even if legal.

It is illegal in North Dakota 

What Planned Parenthood admits to doing would be a felony if done in North Dakota.  Our Congressional delegation should keep that in mind when voting on whether to defund Planned Parenthood.  North Dakotans have already said that Planned Parenthood’s actions are unacceptable.

Possible Good Does Not Make it Right

Planned Parenthood and its defenders have resorted to the consequentialist argument that, no matter how you feel about abortion, what was shown in the videos is actually good because it may lead to cures.  That is another distraction technique and one that relies on a flawed moral analysis.  A good outcome cannot justify an evil act.  The intentional killing of human life is evil and no amount of resulting “good” can make the killing morally acceptable.


Planned Parenthood likes to point out that no federal dollars pay for abortions.  This is partly true.  Federal law prohibits the use of federal funds to directly pay for most abortions.  Tax dollars can, however, pay for abortions due to rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.  More importantly, all money is somewhat fungible.  Tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood help support its agenda in other ways, an agenda that includes abortions and anti-religious freedom activity.

The mere fact that something is legal does not mean that citizens should have to disregard an organization’s involvement in the activity when it comes to deciding whether to fund another activity by the organization.  In other words, even if our tax dollars do not directly pay for abortions, Planned Parenthood’s provision of abortion should exclude it from receiving our tax dollars.

Space does not permit discussion of Planned Parenthood’s never disavowed racist and eugenic history.  It should be clear, even without that information, that the time has come to defund Planned Parenthood and send it to the ash heap of history.

USCCB Chairmen Give Strong Support for the ‘First Amendment Defense Act’

The ‘First Amendment Defense Act’ is a federal non-discrimination act
Religious beliefs and moral convictions on marriage would be protected
The Act is needed in an increasingly intolerant climate
June 19, 2015
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, gave their strong support for the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which is a federal non-discrimination act.
The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their religious beliefs or moral convictions that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.  For such individuals and organizations, the Act provides broad protections, including in the areas of federal contracts, grants, employment, and tax-exempt status. The bills were introduced June 17 in the U.S. Senate (S. 1598) by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2802) by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID).
The chairmen, in a joint letter of support to each of the sponsors, noted that “persons who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman are increasingly having their religious liberties jeopardized and even forfeited.”  Noting some examples of efforts to discriminate on the bases of religious beliefs regarding marriage and human sexuality, the Archbishops said, “It is becoming apparent that some who promote marriage redefinition do not support the coexistence and tolerance of different ideas in a pluralistic society but instead have a ‘comply or else’ agenda.”  Further, they indicated, “As a non-discrimination Act, FADA would protect these individuals and organizations from federal government discrimination.”
The Act refers to the recent exchange at the U.S. Supreme Court when the marriage cases were being argued, noting that “when asked whether a religious school could lose its tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage, the Solicitor General of the United States represented to the United States Supreme Court that ‘[i]t’s certainly going to be an issue’.”  Aware of this atmosphere, the chairmen in their letters of support for FADA said, “In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are very much needed.”
Encouraging passage of the Act, the Archbishops said, “The leadership of our Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good.”
The letters of support for and a backgrounder on the First Amendment Defense Act are available at

Protect Rights of Conscience and Religious Liberty

File:ReligiousFreedomStamp-1Please join in urging Congress to support our cherished rights of conscience and religious liberty. Policy is being considered on Capitol Hill that can protect the freedom of all Americans.  Please take action today!

Just follow this link to our center for Human Life Action :

Now is the time to urge Congress to work to enact critically important conscience protections this year. Such protections will likely be included in a soon-to-be-introduced appropriations bill, but House members should be urged to ensure that it remains a high priority and goes into law.  Senators should also be called upon to help ensure passage of these needed protections. We need you to contact Congress.

Thank you for once again raising your voice in defense of life and liberty. Together we will be heard!

Faith Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to Marriage and Religious Liberty


A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the rights of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, more than 30 religious leaders representing diverse faith communities throughout the United States have reaffirmed their shared commitment to marriage and religious freedom. An open letter entitled “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness” was issued to all in positions of public service on April 23.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), signed the open letter and was joined by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty; and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

“We hope this letter serves as an encouragement to all of us, especially those dedicated to public service, to continue to promote both marriage and religious freedom as integral to a healthy and free society,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Marriage as the union of one man and one woman provides the best context for the birth and rearing of children and should be specially protected by law. The law, when it upholds the unique meaning of marriage, is simply recognizing an objective reality, not constructing one: children always have a mother and a father and deserve to be loved and raised by both of them. Society should work to strengthen the unique bond between husband and wife, knowing that strong marriages build stronger communities.”

The religious leaders stressed the need for civility and mutual respect, writing, “Government should protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage to express their beliefs and convictions without fear of intimidation, marginalization or unwarranted charges that their values imply hostility, animosity, or hatred of others.”

The leaders close with a statement of their duty and love towards all: “In this and in all that we do, we are motivated by our duty to love God and neighbor. This love extends to all those who disagree with us on this issue. The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as between one man and one woman.”

The letter is available at: and follows two previous open letters: “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment,” issued December 6, 2010, and “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” issued January 12, 2012, which are available at


SB 2279 and Religious Freedom

File:ReligiousFreedomStamp-1The North Dakota House of Representatives will soon vote on SB 2279.  What kind of infringements upon religious liberty would be caused by SB 2279?


  • Faith-based entities that are not part of a “religious organization” would have no protection in hiring practices or the provision of services.  Examples include:

FirstChoice Clinic
Prairie St. John’s Hospital
Teen Challenge
St. Vincent’s Care Center (St. Vincent’s adheres to a Catholic mission, but it is owned and operated by Sanford.)
New Life Crisis Pregnancy Center
Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home
Christian Family Life Services
Perry Center Home for Unwed Mothers
Shilo High School
Hope Christian School

  • If an atheist (or a professed Wiccan) applied to work at a Christian grade school as a math teacher and the school does not restrict the position to Christians of that denomination, the school could not reject the applicant even though the applicant’s stated beliefs are antithetical to the school’s mission.
  • If a male applicant for a coaching position at a Catholic high school appeared for his interview wearing a dress, the school would not be allowed to reject the cross-dressing applicant so long as he says he is Catholic.
  • Suppose a male coach at the Catholic school decides to always wear a dress to work. If he remains a member of the Catholic Church, the school could not take any action against him without being subject to an investigation by the Labor Department and possible legal action.
  • Knights of Columbus halls would no longer be able to rent out space for wedding receptions, family reunions, or anything else unless, contrary to their religious principles, they also rent space out for same-sex wedding celebrations, pagan rituals, the Klu Klux Klan, and even a Man/Boy Love association.
  • Private businesses have no protection in employment and business matters.  Examples include:

Religious bookstores such as Hurley’s
Islamic (Halal) groceries
Christian-based web designers
Dating services

These types of businesses would, for example, have to employ people who engage in activities that might violate their beliefs about sex outside of marriage.

In addition, all businesses would be required to participate in activities that they might find morally objectionable, such as a same-sex wedding, a celebration of divorce, etc.

  • A religious-based college, such as University of Mary, that provides space, money, or approval to any student clubs, it would have to do the same for clubs for gay and lesbian students.
  • Scouting and children’s organizations could not consider a person’s sexual activities and behaviors when making leadership positions.
  • SB 2279 would make it illegal for religious organizations that own non-commercial housing (convent, rectory, boarding house, retreat space) to consider sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex when giving preference for space.  Only religious adherence to the same faith would be allowed, even if the housing is for non-commercial purposes.

Important note: People commonly believe that the religious beliefs in these examples are protected by the U.S. Constitution.  This is not true.  So long as a law does target religion and applies to everyone – which is the case with the North Dakota Human Rights Act – the government may infringe upon someone’s religious beliefs without violating the U.S. Constitution.

Committee Gives “Sexual Orientation Discrimination” Bill Do Not Pass Recommendation

1280px-2009-0521-ND-StateCapitolThe House Human Services Committee overwhelmingly voted against SB 2279, a bill that would give sexual acts outside of marriage special legal protection while restricting religious freedoms.  The vote was 11-2 for a Do Not Pass recommendation.

The committee made an amendment to the problematic “religious exemptions” in the bill which the conference is still analyzing.