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 Alaska Public Media. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for nearly 30 years. Radio brought her to Alaska, where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting before accepting a reporting/host position with APRN in 2003. APRN merged with Alaska Public Media a year later. 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. 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.