religious liberty

Action Alert: Ask Representatives to Vote No on HB 1386, the Sexual Orientation and Transgender Bill

The House Human Services Committee has given a “do not pass” recommendation for House Bill 1386. That means it will now head to the full House for a vote.

The Catholic Church rejects unjust discrimination, but HB 1386 would provide special legal recognition based on sexual acts and expressions as well as infringe upon religious freedom.

Contact your Representatives and ask them to vote NO on HB 1386.

Contact them here:…/pub…/publicviewpointormessage.htm

Conference Testifies in Defense of Religious Freedom

The North Dakota Catholic Conference today told the House Judiciary Committee that a bill that purports to merely protect constitutional rights actually restricts a person’s freedom to contract in accordance with religious beliefs.

For example, HB 1425 would interfere with the implementation of Catholic canon law and other religious laws.  It would also interfere with person’s right to have an  health care advance directive that reflects their religious wishes.

Proponents of the bill from the Center for Security Policy — an organization widely criticized by both conservative and liberal groups for its extreme anti-Muslim positions — attempted, but failed, to answer committee questions about how the bill could, on the one hand, be needed and, on the other hand, not change existing law.

Christopher Dodson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, explained to the committee that the bill does, in fact, interfere with religious and contractual rights and that any other interpretation of the bill would render it meaningless.

Read the conference’s testimony.

Contact the House Judiciary Committee and ask them to give the bill a Do Not Pass recommendation.

Freedom of Worship Space

The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified January 26, 2017 against a bill that would mandate churches to allow firearms on its premises or post gun prohibition signs at every entrance on the grounds that it impossibly infringes upon the religious and property rights of religious organizations.

Read testimony here.



Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori to Congress: Support the Conscience Protection Act

handsCardinal Timothy M. Dolan and Archbishop William E. Lori – as chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively – wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives, March 31, urging support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 (HR 4828).
The Conscience Protection Act, they wrote, is “essential legislation protecting the fundamental rights of health care providers…to ensure that those providing much-needed health care and health coverage can continue to do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.”
HR 4828 has a “modest scope,” they noted. “While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice… The Conscience Protection Act will address the deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws, most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court.”
Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori recalled the Hippocratic oath’s rejection of abortion in the profession of medicine, indicating that the Act will benefit not only Catholic medical professionals but “the great majority of ob/gyns [who] remain unwilling to perform abortions.”
Finally, they explained that conscience protection facilitates access to life-affirming health care: “When government…mandates involvement in abortion as a condition for being allowed to provide life-affirming health care services, it not only undermines the widely acknowledged civil rights of health care providers but also limits access to good health care for American women and men.”
The full text of their letter is posted at:
For more on the bishops’ promotion of conscience rights, including a recent video about a nurse who was coerced to take part in a late-term abortion, visit:

Washington Misses Opportunity to Protect the Freedom to Serve

A statement by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The bishops of the United States are gravely disappointed that the 2016 omnibus funding bill did not include the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA).  While the omnibus bill certainly addresses other critical issues, the modest reform that ANDA represents — to make federal conscience laws on abortion workable and enforceable — was an urgent legislative priority in these final months of the year.
Many Catholic and other institutions, including those that provide health care and other human services to the poor and vulnerable, have joined in our support of ANDA.  Without ANDA, these caring organizations face legal threats to their very existence, as they lack clear and enforceable protection for their freedom to serve the needy in accord with their deepest moral convictions on respect for human life.  Such threats to conscience also pose a threat to the most marginalized and vulnerable in our society–the poor and the sick, as well as the unborn.
 I am deeply concerned that a foundational principle that has received long-standing, bipartisan support in the past has suddenly become partisan.  No one should be forced by the government to actively participate in what they believe to be the taking of an innocent life. This is not about “access” to abortion. The principle at stake is whether people of faith and others who oppose abortion and abortion coverage should be compelled to participate in them. Federal law has long supported the rights of conscientious objection, and even in recent years, President Obama and many members of Congress have publicly declared their support for these existing laws. ANDA merely sought to give them a more consistent means of enforcement.
Despite this, ANDA was caught in the partisan polarization gripping Washington. To those who supported ANDA, we offer our gratitude and applaud your commitment to maintaining our national consensus in support of conscience protection.  To those who opposed ANDA, we urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reconsider your position, which stands in opposition to even the modest enforcement of a venerable principle that is rooted in the constitution and has long enjoyed broad, bipartisan support.
We join Pope Francis in “call[ing] for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States,” a cooperation that must be undertaken “with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.”  [Address to Congress, Sept. 24, 2015]  We call upon our elected officials to rise above partisan divisions and to renew their support for this most basic right. ANDA should be enacted as soon as possible. Without it, current federal conscience laws are, now for the first time, being enforced erratically or not at all in places such as California.
The mission of the Church in the public square is to witness to the dignity of every human life and advocate for the freedom to act in accord with one’s moral and religious convictions in defense of those lives, no matter how young or vulnerable. We will continue to reach out to the White House and Congressional leaders untiringly until proper protections are guaranteed.

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.