In 2004 the outcome of the presidential election was decided by Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. Within Ohio the decisive epicenter of the 2004 campaign converged around the influence of activists from Franciscan University of Steubenville on swing Catholic voters.
This year’s election has triggered even greater activism among Franciscan University of Steubenville students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Because of Obamacare, Franciscan made national news when it was forced to drop health care insurance for students because they refused to comply with the HHS mandate. FUS has also joined 42 other Catholic institutions in suing the federal government over the mandate.
Students, and the entire FUS community, feel as if their faith is directly under attack by the Obama administration and its HHS mandate. Under Obamacare taxpayers are forced to fund abortion on top of the hundreds of millions in tax dollars Obama has funneled to Planned Parenthood. On the first day of his presidency, Obama reversed the Mexico City policy, which banned the use of federal funds for abortion overseas.
Obama has even failed to support a ban on sex-selection abortion and would not endorse a ban on late-term abortion when an unborn child is unquestionably capable of feeling intense pain.
Obama’s aggressive pro-abortion advocacy, combined with his attack on the moral integrity of Catholic institutions, has galvanized the Franciscan community. This effort is headed by Michael Hernon, former RNC Catholic Outreach director; Kimberly Hahn, popular Catholic author and wife of Dr. Scott Hahn; and Joe Loizzo, longtime local activist who runs the health center at Franciscan.
But, this year the activists at Franciscan have become part of a statewide, ecumenical effort of faithful voters. They’ve been joined by two national organizations, the Susan B. Anthony-List, led by Marjorie Dannenfelser, and American Majority Action!, led by Ned Ryun, son of former Congressman Jim Ryan of Kansas.
SBA employs three graduates of Franciscan. One of them, Billy Valentine (FUS ’09), directs the Ohio effort, while a Boston College graduate staffer, Billy Cody, runs the effort on the ground. American Majority Action! has established three Ohio offices overseen by Martin Gillespie who ran RNC Catholic Outreach in 2004.
Working together, this coalition has already completed over 54,000 phones calls and nearly 1,000 door knocks in Steubenville itself. As Martin Gillespie summarized, “We are using socially and fiscally conservative issues in a targeted way both locally and statewide, through the call and door knock program, to make a maximum impact on Nov. 6.”
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Social and fiscal conservatism in eastern Ohio includes not only the issues of life, marriage, religious liberty, subsidiarity, and budgetary constraint, but also energy and coal issues, which are very important to the economic future of that region.
What we see happening in Ohio, the emerging coalition between local and national organizations and Catholics and Evangelicals, is happening in other battleground states like Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, and Florida. A great playwright once wrote, “Readiness is all” — whether it is “all” might be debatable, but there will be no victory without it, and Ohio will be ready.
LifeNews Note: Deal W. Hudson is president of the Pennsylvania Catholics’ Network and was chairman of Catholic Outreach at the RNC between 2000-2004 and is
the author of Onward Christian Soldiers: the Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon & Schuster 2008).