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Fr. Pavone Says . . . Pastors Shouldn’t Fear Restrictions On Allowing Pro-Life Activity

August 8, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

Thanks to the Trump administration, pastors needn’t be concerned about their churches losing tax-exempt status because they’ve provided political information, a veteran priest and pro-life activist told The Wanderer during a July 30 telephone interview.
While Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life (priestsforlife.org), reviewed various efforts that the Florida-based international Catholic organization is making to educate voters as the November midterm elections approach, he mentioned President Trump’s executive order issued in May 2017.
“If there were ever a year when pastors do not have to be concerned about that,” Pavone said, Trump “has made so clear” through his executive order that “the federal government is not going to punish churches for speaking about politics.”
The Washington-based conservative Daily Signal website posted on May 4, 2017 that Trump’s “executive order states that the administration’s policy is to protect religious liberty. It directs the Internal Revenue Service to use maximum discretion to alleviate the law governing churches and partisan politics, known as the Johnson Amendment.”
The Johnson Amendment, Pavone told The Wanderer, “is all bark and no bite…and the guidelines are so vague, one could easily challenge them on the grounds of vagueness.”
Pavone discussed voter training provided by Priests for Life that is “very much geared to an interdenominational audience,” including in-person and online training where he hopes “the participation in these seminars is in the tens of thousands.”
Upcoming in-person training is scheduled for Troy, Mich., on August 17, Cincinnati on September 5 and 6, and Titusville, Fla., on September 8 and 29.
Priests for Life recently moved its headquarters from Staten Island, N.Y., to Titusville, located near the Kennedy Space Center on the Atlantic coast.
More information, including regarding the online training, is at voteforlifetraining.org, he said, while electionprayer.com provides spiritual preparation.
The training includes such basics as voter registration, deadlines, and the general election, Pavone said. “We train people how to be attentive to this information,” then educate their fellow citizens.
“We try to get people thinking in a dual way,” he said, so that they ponder not only their own ballot but also “how can I influence other people . . . to cast the best vote?”
Comparing and contrasting the Republican and Democratic Parties’ platforms continues to be a very popular feature, he said. Democrats are “no longer the party people are used to” but stand for “Godlessness and death,” Pavone said.
Nationalizing this year’s midterm election issues is important, he said. “We believe it’s to our advantage to do that.”
Pointing to the importance of every contest, Pavone said, “Even a local congressional district race…could potentially shift the balance of power in the House of Representatives.”
Pavone said he recommends following political news at the Real Clear Politics and Cook Political Report sites (realclearpolitics.com and cookpolitical.com).
A traditional obstacle to direct distribution of pro-life voter information has been church pastors’ concern they’re causing legal problems for themselves.
In addition, Pavone said, some uncooperative pastors are trying “to shield themselves from liberal Democratic parishioners” who would object over factual information about their party being made available.
However, he said, there’s no reason why people handing out literature can’t stand on public sidewalks, which often are just next to church doors.
One resource Priests for Life offers to pro-lifers, Pavone said, is a prepared letter explaining why their presence on the sidewalk is legal. The letter can be sent in advance of a literature activity to the local pastor and chief of police, briefing them on facts like case law and saying the pro-lifers “have a right to do this.”
The letter lets the officials know “they’ll get in greater trouble by interfering” with the pro-lifers’ rights than allowing them to distribute material, Pavone said.
“We would simply supply (pro-life groups) with the letters,” he said. “. . . It would be completely up to the local group” to choose to mail them to pertinent officials.
Other Priests for Life projects include an online television channel on ending abortion, videos, action alerts, and conference calls for both people in general and pro-life leaders, he said.
Getting through to Democratic Party leaders, though, is among the most difficult of tasks, he said. Asked whether they realize the damage that being so pro-abortion is doing to their party, Pavone replied:
“It’s probably the hardest message to get through because they’re in such blind allegiance to the abortion industry….It’s really like dogma for them.”
Priests for Life was welcomed to Titusville by local officials and area politicians. The area’s Hometown News posted on May 17: “Rep. Bill Posey (R., Rockledge) and Florida State Rep. Erin Grall also attended the ceremony, and Carol Fondo of the Titusville Chamber of Commerce brought along a giant pair of scissors to help cut the ribbon outside the building at 5211 S. Washington Ave.”
Hometown News also said: “Priests for Life is the umbrella organization for a dozen ministries that reach out to youth, the African-American and Latino communities, priests and other clergy, seminarians and lay people. Priests for Life is a registered Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations and has close contact with the Vatican through its office in Rome.
“Rachel’s Vineyard, the world’s largest ministry for healing after abortion, is part of Priests for Life, and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, a mobilization of thousands of women and men who speak publicly about their abortion regret, is a joint project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life,” the news site reported.
Although Priests for Life was grateful for its years in New York, Pavone said, “It’s nice being in a swing state” now. “We’re enjoying it.”
He said Floridians “have a strong sense” of their vote being up for grabs — not guaranteed to one party.

An Exciting Season

Pavone told The Wanderer that a lack of greater legal progress against permissive abortion in the U.S. troubles many people who take Priests for Life training.
“It’s a constant frustration among people who come to our seminars” that nearly a half-century has passed since the Supreme Court invented the constitutionality of national permissive abortion in 1973, he said
However, he said, from a historical perspective, more time elapsed — 58 years — from the time the Supreme Court upheld racial segregation in 1896 to a major rejection of racial separation in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
“No pro-life legislation gets passed unless you have all three in alignment,” both chambers of Congress and also the White House, Pavone said. But even then, he added, there’s “the control of the courts,” which Trump is affecting favorably.
If being pro-life motivated people to vote for Trump for president in 2016, Pavone said, they can see much progress on the issue with him in the White House.
Looking toward the November elections, Pavone said, “It’s going to be an exciting season in the next few months.”

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