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Citizen lobbying day set for Oct. 23


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BOSTON -- “Together we can” was the fuzzy campaign slogan that swept Gov. Deval Patrick into the state’s corner office.

But Patrick has made it clear since taking office in January that the “we” he referred to does not include people who want faith-based principles included in public policy debate. He’s supported abortion, same-sex marriage, human embryonic stem-cell research, and opposed abstinence education.

Now, however, Catholic and Protestant lay organizations are re-grouping with an attitude of “together we can” to stand up to Beacon Hill’s moral freefall.

Both Catholic Citizenship and the Coalition for Marriage and Family are having a legislative lobbying day Oct. 23. It’s a how-to event, running from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Statehouse Room B-2.

This event will focus on two issues: legalized casino gambling and a bill that would mandate public schools adopt a radical sex education program.

The day will begin with a short talk from pro-family legislators. Then, equipped with educational literature, people can visit their respective officials.

“There’s nothing more effective and personal than speaking face-to-face with your own legislator,” notes the coalition’s announcement.

Catholic Citizenship, the official lay political action group of the state’s four dioceses, is publicizing the event via its growing e-mail network.

In an online video message, the group’s president Ray Flynn, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, urges: “Stand up and get involved. Talk to your representatives. Take back your towns!”

Executive Director Victor Pap said Catholic Citizenship is working with the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the state’s four Catholic bishops.

The bishops, among numerous others, oppose Patrick’s proposal for three resort-casinos in Massachusetts. He has yet to present the Legislature with a definite proposal, but the bishops urged lawmakers to reject any expanded gambling plan.

“By endorsing casino gambling, the Commonwealth will be creating a new population of addicted gamblers. The harm will reach far beyond individual gamblers by affecting their spouses, children, dependents, employers and the community in which they live,” their MCC statement said.

Similarly, Massachusetts Family Institute President Kris Mineau called the casino plan “a tragedy and a social injustice.” MFI is working with the coalition, a statewide network of grassroots chapters of concerned Christians.

The Coalition for Marriage and Family is an outgrowth of the former VoteOnMarriage.org ballot committee, which sponsored a constitutional marriage protection amendment. The Legislature defeated that measure in June after intense pressure from Democratic Party leaders and heavy lobbying from homosexual activists.

Despite the setback, coalition activists plan to educate voters on the consequences of issues like same-sex marriage, train people to be more politically active, recruit volunteers and elect good candidates to office, according to its Web site, www.coalitionformarrigeandfamily.org.

In addition to casino gambling, another front-burner issue for the lobbying day is garnering opposition to bills that would mandate a controversial sex-education curriculum in all state public schools.

House Bill 597 and Senate Bill 288 would require all communities to adopt the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework in grades K-12. This curriculum is already approved by the state Department of Education, but its use is optional.

If the bills pass, the curriculum would be made a graduation requirement. “This is part of Planned Parenthood’s five-year plan to indoctrinate children in public schools with their cultural message of ‘anything goes’ sex education, abortion, and homosexuality,” warns the coalition’s Web site.

As part of the framework’s curriculum, 4 to 11-year-olds are taught the “correct terminology for sexual orientation (such as heterosexual and gay and lesbian)” and how to “describe different types of families.” Students from 14-18 years old learn about “possible determinants of sexual orientation” and confidentiality laws concerning “reproductive health problems.”

Hundreds of parents testified against the plan in a 2006 legislative hearing. When the bills resurfaced this year, opponents reiterated their objections before the Joint Education Committee in May.

Among those testifying were MCC Executive Director Edward Saunders and Linda Thayer, an MCC education subcommittee member and veteran public school teacher.

Thayer’s comprehensive analysis, “What Parents Should Know About the Massachusetts Health Frameworks,” can be obtained at www.masscitizensforlife.org. “People need to realize that this curriculum contains some radical sex education under the umbrella of health education,” Thayer said in a Sept. 27 interview. “It’s very pro-contraceptive for kids as young as 11. I really encourage parents to look carefully at this.”

Saunders has objected that the curriculum lets the state usurp the role of parents in children’s moral development. Evelyn Reilly, MFI director of public policy, said the framework violates parental rights and freedom of religion.

Also testifying against the bills were Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-North Attleboro; Bea Martins, director of Catholic Citizenship for the Fall River Diocese; and Marie Sturgis, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

Spokesmen for Catholic Citizenship, the Coalition for Marriage and Family and MCFL all say that more people of faith need to become politically active. Three other pending issues of concern are a proposed mandatory vaccine for schoolgirls against a sexually-transmitted virus; the governor’s plan to publicly fund human embryonic stem-cell research; and his refusal to approve a federal grant for abstinence education.

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