President of the University of Mary—the only Catholic college in North Dakota—Father James P. Shea attributed the resounding defeat of a proposed religious liberty amendment to the North Dakota constitution to a barrage of late-breaking activity by Planned Parenthood and like-minded organizations.
The amendment, which was supported by the North Dakota Catholic Conference,was rejected by a margin of 64 to 36 percent in the same week that U.S. bishopsaddressed threats to religious liberty at their meeting in Atlanta, Ga.
Although Father Shea, who cut a radio ad in support of the amendment–on the ballot as Measure 3–isn’t concerned that the university will face immediate problems, he worries about the long-range effect of the amendment’s failure, especially in light of the federal government’s attempt to force Catholic institutions to provide health care coverage for contraception and abortion inducing drugs.
“As I shared with you before,” Father Shea said in an email to The Cardinal Newman Society, “[Measure 3's] passage seemed pretty secure in the weeks leading up to the election. But about a week before the election we saw an enormous influx of out-of-state funding for a high impact ‘Vote No’ campaign. With ballot measures like this, it’s always easier for the average voter to vote ‘no’ from fear or confusion. Organizations like Planned Parenthood and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State certainly demonstrated a vested interest in Measure 3′s defeat.”
“Several days’ worth of flyers were sent to the homes of voters in higher population areas,” Father Shea continued. “So when election day arrived, I knew that the opponents of Measure 3 had outspent supporters nearly 7 to 1; I was very nervous about passage.
“As far as ramifications for the University of Mary,” Father Shea continued, “I don’t have immediate concerns. Our worries would be much more with the HHS mandate. Measure 3 was a proactive effort, because North Dakota is a state blessed with political leadership which does value faith-based institutions and the work we do.
“With Measure 3,” he said, “we had our eyes on the landscape and wanted to do what we could to secure religious freedom for the years to come. We’ll continue to look for new ways to do that. In the meantime, our intention at the University of Mary is continue to serve students and educate them to be leaders in the service of truth.”
The North Dakota Catholic Conference issued a statement noting the massive amount of money spent to defeat the amendment but saying that North Dakotans had learned from the campaign, despite its failure:
One success of this campaign is that more North Dakotans now know what the legal experts concluded – North Dakota does not provide adequate protection for religious freedom. The massive amount of out-of-state money Planned Parenthood poured into the opposition campaign confirms that religious freedom in North Dakota is not safe and that there are well-organized and well-funded groups ready to take advantage of that situation.
We are, therefore, only at the start of a journey. We will not rest until religious freedom in North Dakota is protected in the law as a fundamental human right.
Read the whole statement here.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.