In 2007 at the request of Bishop Michael Burbidge representatives of the Diocese of Raleigh and the Diocese of Charlotte, the two dioceses in North Carolina, began a series of discussions aimed at establishing a public policy outreach organization. The organizing idea was for Catholics in North Carolina to have a voice in public policy matters that intersected the Catholic faith.
In April of 2008 Bishop Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte signed a joint operating agreement that established Catholic Voice North Carolina (CVNC). The stated purpose of CVNC was to provide nonpartisan educational information to Catholics in North Carolina on legislative matters of faith, values and morality, and to give Catholics a way to voice their opinions directly to their elected representatives. From the outset participating in CVNC was open to any North Carolina resident. Participating in CVNC was free of charge and remains so.
CVNC seeks to influence legislation at both the state and national levels. Beginning in 2008 Catholics in North Carolina who joined CVNC received email alerts from the bishops requesting they contact legislators to support or oppose various pieces of legislation.
Each alert contains an explanation of the Bishops position, links to educational materials and a call to action. Responding to the alert allows the CNVC participants to contact their legislator directly, usually via email.
CVNC maintains contact with NC Catholics via its website, www.catholicvoicenc.org, emails and social media. CVNC monitors legislation at the state and national levels and when an appropriate piece of legislation is identified, the Bishops issue a call to action for CVNC participants. The call to action allows participants to send an email or make a phone call to their legislator in support or opposition to the legislation in question. CVNC works with the database management company VoterVoice to match each participant/member to their elected representatives at both the state and national levels.
When CVNC was formed Monsignor Michael Clay of the Diocese of Raleigh served as its registered lobbyist in Raleigh. Monsignor Clay maintained regular contact with legislators and suggested alerts for the Bishops consideration. He was transferred into another ministry in 2011.
In late 2016 Bishop Michael Burbidge was transferred to the Diocese of Arlington, VA.
A six member advisory committee made up of three representatives of each diocese assists the Bishops in the ongoing operation of the organization and suggests topics for alerts and awareness emails. The Bishops have final approval over which issues are supported through CVNC. A webmaster maintains the website and works with VoterVoice to send out the alerts.
Catholic Voice North Carolina Legislative Highlights
2008 – CVNC introduced itself to the people of North Carolina with a call to action over the Choose Life license plates. The pro-life specialty license plates needed approval from the General Assembly before they could be sold to automobile owners. The effort to obtain the legislation failed in 2008 and 2009. In 2011 the legislation passed but was followed by a lengthy court challenge that was decided in 2016 in favor of the plates. Distribution of the plates began in late 2016.
2009 - CVNC supported the School Violence Protection Act that protected students and teachers from bullying, harassment and cyberbullying. The bill was introduced due to several national crime reports at the time that noted a rise in school violence. Language that protected teachers from bullying by students was also written into the bill, making North Carolina the first state to take this step. Governor Beverly Perdue signed the bill into law.
2010 and 2013 – CVNC supported the DREAM Act that was before the US Congress. The act provided a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before turning 16 years of age. Although portions of the act were enacted through executive orders by President Barack Obama, the act itself failed to pass.
2011 – CVNC supported the passage of The Woman’s Right to Know Act in the North Carolina General Assembly. It required women who seek abortions be fully informed about relevant issues such as abortion methods, associated medical risks and possible adverse psychological effects of abortion. In addition to its support for the bill in the legislature CVNC also supported the successful override of the veto of the act by Governor Beverly Perdue.
2012 – CVNC joined with other religious organizations in the state in support of the North Carolina marriage amendment. The amendment placed into the state constitution the definition of a valid marriage in North Carolina as being one between one man and one woman. The definition had previously existed in state law. The amendment passed with more than 60% of the vote. The United States Supreme Court later invalidated both the amendment and the state law.
2013 – CVNC supported a bill in the General Assembly to prohibit sex-selection abortions in North Carolina. In the alert to CVNC participants the Bishops wrote, “One of the most appalling aspects of the act of abortion is that innocent unborn children are sometimes killed because of sex selection.” The measure passed and was signed into law. At the time of its passage North Carolina was one of only eight states in the nation to prohibit sex-selection abortions.
2014 – CVNC urged its participants to contact North Carolina’s two US senators to show support in the state for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. As the name implied the bill would prohibit the use of tax funds to pay for abortions in health care plans that are supported through the Affordable Care Act. The act passed in the House of Representatives but did not come to a vote in the US Senate.
2015 –CVNC urged its participants to contact their US Senators to support a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the county. The organization receives $500-million in federal funding. Although the measure passed in the House of Representatives it did not muster the 60 votes required for consideration in the US Senate.
2016 – CVNC urged support for Conscience Protection legislation that was before the US Congress. The legislation would prohibit the firing of a health care worker who declined to participate in an abortion procedure. The measure passed the House of Representatives but by year’s end had not been taken up in the Senate.
CVNC monitors and seeks to influence legislation in seven areas:
Stem Cell Research
End of Life
Hunger and Poverty
The CVNC website contains a substantial amount of educational information on each area that it monitors.
During its first eight years of operation CVNC sent 163 alerts, information emails and newsletters to its participants. These calls to action led to more than 148,000 emails to state and federal legislators.