Catholic Church Rings In ‘Fortnight For Freedom’

If you’re in Juneau, Fairbanks or Anchorage tomorrow, you may hear the bells of the Catholic Church ringing at noon. Catholics in Alaska have been observing a two week period leading up to July 4, called the Fortnight for Freedom.

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It’s part of an effort by the church to highlight what they see as a chipping away at the First Amendment and the right to religious freedom. Catholic leaders in the state sent a letter encouraging church members to speak out against infringements on religious expression.

Fairbanks Bishop Donald Kettler says it’s a good time for reflection on religious freedom, not just for the church but for all citizens.

“We don’t believe this is a Catholic issue, we believe this is a United States Constitutional issue that we have to protect religious liberty and that the concept that that’s not just so narrow that it focuses only on places of worship, but there’s other ways that our religious freedoms can be infringed upon and we’re concerned about that,” Kettler said.

Some of those concerns are the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that Catholic schools, hospitals and businesses would be required to provide contraceptives and other reproductive services to employees. The church is opposed to contraception.

The Obama administration in June, gave these religious organizations an exemption, but refused to extend it to other businesses that cited opposition based on religious beliefs.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori