In early 2004 I was afire with election fever. There was an excitement in the air for Republicans that I have not experienced since, even in 2010. It was my freshman year of college, and partisan politics divided roommate against roommate — though usually in a spirit of sportsmanship and good humor, such as when two of my friends drew a line down the middle of their door and let their stickers, articles, and posters face off.

I made phone calls and carpooled with friends to see the President; I attended College Republicans tailgates and bake sales. When the weather grew warm I took to my feet and led a flyering campaign around campus. Because I was equal parts zeal and naïveté, I sometimes said, did, and thought things that 2014 Nicole would find cringe-worthy. One politically naïve move I don’t regret, though, is a poster I created that read “Support the Muslim Women of France.”

At that time, the French parliament was poised to ban religious identification from public places. It is worth noting that, although the law was widely believed to target the hijab (the headscarf worn by some Muslim women), it was broad enough to include a yarmulke or an “excessive” cross. In government and in culture, France reached an extreme secularism long before we ourselves began to hear calls for faith to be shoved into a dark corner where it won’t perturb anyone else. It’s not entirely difficult to understand, given the divergent history and outcomes of two revolutions. Nevertheless, under the old lie that one can’t be both a patriot and a Godly person, France was prepared to expunge outward symbols of faith that Americans generally tolerate.

Even three years after the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists, it never occurred to me not to support the public expression of faith. Sadly, a vast majority of the French populace apparently favored the law.

Why do I bring this up now? The results of two UConn studies show that indicating a religious affiliation on a résumé can kill job prospects. Once again, this is true across a broad range of denominations, but is particularly true for Muslims.

If only liberal New England had been examined, I could easily put this down to the usual “villain” of the story — secular intolerance — and move on. The part of the article that raises my eyebrows has to do with how the results of the same experiment played out in the Bible Belt. There, I am compelled to follow the data where it appears to lead.

As I have railed against the federal mandate forcing my fellow conscientious-objectors to subsidize abortifacients, I’ve been painfully aware of the mockery and condescending assumptions directed at Catholic women: a minority of a minority…brainwashed by the domineering patriarchy, no doubt. If I added that some of my friends wear chapel veils, all you-know-what would surely break loose among the feministas. Now we stand at the cusp of a potential Supreme Court vindication, and I wonder, do we still need the oppressive government to defend us from one another? That would be a hollow victory indeed.

The Family Institute has defended Baptists, Catholics, evangelicals, and Jews against outrageous, unwarranted attacks on their faith and freedom. Why not Muslims too? Throughout the HHS Mandate battle, the refrain has been “An attack on one is an attack on all.” Now, I would not be a Christian today if I did not believe Christianity is true. In accord with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), I also reject a complete, senseless lack of restrictions, because there are certain human rights concerns I share. However, I just cannot conceive of passing over an eminently qualified job applicant because of her faith. I sure hope I’m in a clear majority there.

As Franklin, with his typical wit, so eloquently put it: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”


Father’s Day is here again, and once again we are prompted to reflect on the mysteries and glories of the inseverable bond between a father and his child. This past week or so, the web has been full of tributes that are difficult to top, such as Buzzfeed’s moving pictorial of dads meeting their newborn babies. You can tell it’s love at first sight, and it just might make you cry a little.

Not to brag, but I have an awesome dad. What keeps me utterly humbled and grateful is the awareness that it didn’t have to be this way. This July will mark my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary–a Rock of Gibraltar in this shifting cultural milieu.

A tribute to fathers is necessarily an implied tribute to mothers, and perhaps more so than the other way around. We ought to keep this in mind in light of hype surrounding a recent study that documented changes in men’s brain activity from active parenting, a study that included homosexual couples. Some outlets managed to report on the facts without irresponsible conjecture, but others took the facts on a joyride to serve a shameless advocacy ‘journalism’ suggesting–in a bizarre but not wholly unpredictable inversion of the single-motherhood-by-choice phenomenon–that Mom is an expendable party. Certainly, humans are adept at compensating when they must. That compensation is needed at all puts the lie to the idea that another man is just as good as Mom.

My mom and I are two peas in a pod in many ways. From her side of the family I get my petite stature, my Catholic faith, and probably my ability to gently but firmly stick to my guns. I’d also be lying if I said we haven’t had opportunities to bond over…ahem…occasional male incomprehensibility, as it appears to women. That said, there have always been things that my dad and I shared pretty much exclusively: our penchant for hard core roller coaster riding (while Mom says “See you back on the ground”), or our appreciation of slapstick and ridiculous comedy. A mere word or gesture can launch us, giggling, into a lengthy, memorized routine.

Dad showed me that there can be fun and levity in politics, and Dad’s example has strongly impressed upon me the value of honesty even when it’s really inconvenient. There are also unanticipated ways in which I have apparently changed my dad’s life. He once credited me, on national TV no less, with getting him to listen to classical music, which according to him would garner him a healthy razzing from his college rock buddies.

I’ve tried, now and then, to imagine life without Dad. My brain short-circuits before I get anywhere; it’s just not something I have much stomach to contemplate.

Some people, in this lovely but broken world of ours, have to imagine life with Dad. HuffPo, one of the loudest voices in the above-mentioned advocacy journalism category, just the other day published this bittersweet piece whose author can finally stop imagining and embrace her dad in the flesh (why, one wonders, can’t HuffPo put two and two together?). Others, like Alana Stewart–conceived via sperm donation, which she speaks from the heart about in this must-read NPR interview–are still searching.

Biology alone doesn’t make a good dad. Even so, the adage “blood is thicker than water” rings true.

This Father’s Day I pray to the Father of us all that we who are close to our dads will never take it for granted, and that those who aren’t will find reconciliation, joy, consolation, and peace.

From all of us at Family Institute of Connecticut, Happy Father’s Day.


In the furor that resulted, rightly, from LiveAction’s revelation that a Planned Parenthood staffer gave what she thought was a 15-year-old girl a graphic personal endorsement of sadomasochism, it is understandable that some good news about high school students’ habits may have been overlooked. The results of the CDC’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey are in, and they have implications for both the nation and the state of Connecticut (this is not the same survey on which we reported in March. To view survey questions, click here; to learn more about the CDC’s methodology, including question development and limitations of the survey, click here).

The Hartford Courant reports that smoking and drinking among Connecticut high school students are at a 17-year low. Also:

The number of students who reported ever having had sexual intercourse fell slightly, to 41.1 percent, in Connecticut. Nationally, the number also slid, to 46.8 percent.

“It’s encouraging that high school students are making better health choices such as not fighting, not smoking, and not having sex,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.

From the time I first became aware of the YRBS, I have found that it provides a refreshing counter-narrative to the popular idea that the sulky, secretive, hormone-crazed beast that materialized in your house at approximately the same time your sweet 11-year-old mysteriously disappeared cannot possibly be expected either to understand the value of delayed gratification or to modify his or her behavior. The quote above shows a clear majority, as well as including an expert opinion, and may be enough to help a young person who is struggling to resist peer pressure.

In their hurry to take credit for lower teen pregnancy and abortion rates, the Guttmacher Institute –a.k.a. Planned Parenthood’s research arm– ignores such trends. They’re not good for business. At, Dr. Michael New eviscerates Guttmacher’s analysis, even using their own studies.

Is There Bad News?
Unfortunately, there are clouds in this blue sky. Here’s a particularly troubling statistic identified by the Courant:

High school students who reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse jumped a statistically significant 2 percentage points, to 9.2 percent. Nationally, 7.3 percent of students reported being forced to have sex.

Jillian Gilchrest, public policy director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, noted that the survey only reflects the responses of youths who felt safe to disclose that they had been forced to have sex.

I was instantly reminded of a passage from chastity educator Jason Evert’s book If You Really Loved Me (pg. 30):

A poll in Rhode Island asked seventeen hundred students in grades six through nine if it is OK for a guy to force a young woman to have sex if the two of them have dated for six months or more. Two-thirds of the guys said this was acceptable–and half of the girls did as well! 86 percent of the young men said that it was OK to rape your wife, and 24 percent said that it was OK to rape a date if you spent “a lot of money” on her. Modern culture tells us that if something feels good and we want it, we should have it. Go ahead. Gorge yourself. But when this mentality seeps into the minds of the youth, we end up with grade-schoolers who don’t see a problem with rape.

That book was published in 2008. I wonder how we’re doing now?

Better to Light One Candle…
Let’s not lose sight of the dark areas. Still, a steady diet of bad news is no good for a Gospel (Good News) people. Be encouraged by the positive trends, publicize, and celebrate them!

image-2There, There Sandra

Voters Prefer Man With Less Notoriety

Like El Niño, I’m sure this can be blamed on the War on Women: Though she still advances to the final round, Sandra Fluke, the best known of all candidates for California’s 26th State Senate district, placed second to school board member Ben Allen. Allen’s website describes his priorities as:

  • Creating jobs and opportunities for all residents;
  • Developing a long-term plan to get the state budget in line;
  • Challenging the culture of corruption in Sacramento and protecting taxpayers;
  • Fixing our troubled schools;
  • Preserving our natural resources and open spaces
  • Making higher education more affordable; and
  • Most importantly, making sure that all of our communities, every zip code, every ethnic group, women and men are represented in our State Capitol.

Seems like free birth control just isn’t at the top of the list in Santa Monica. Wonder if Sen. Murphy is feeling nervous about his investment?


What’s the one election so important, according to Chris Murphy, that — although it is taking place on the other side of the country — he simply cannot resist getting involved?

Who is this up-and-coming public servant of such rare caliber?


Oy vey.

I doubt anyone has forgotten, but just in case: it’s the woman who became famous for being insulted by Rush Limbaugh (a very exclusive club, that) after intentionally applying to a Jesuit college to force a confrontation between free birth control and the First Amendment. Predictably, this has proven to be a losing proposition. Unbelievably, she also pleaded financial hardship for students who already demonstrated some willingness to exchange fifty grand a year for the benefits of a Georgetown diploma — which include the reasonable expectation of a six-figure starting income. One would hope that if a student got one message out of an education this prestigious and expensive, it would be “Don’t stomp on the Bill of Rights.”

Senator Murphy, this says more about your judgment than I ever could.


Family Institute of Connecticut Action has expended more energy in opposition to the HHS abortifacient mandate than any other federal issue with which we have ever been involved–an issue that, please God, will be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of religious liberty before the end of June.

The mandate is part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and our friends at Defenders of the Faith have alerted us to a June 8th event about that law. Details are below. We encourage FIC members to attend.

The Developing Conflict: The Church and the Affordable Care Act Sunday, June 8, 2014 1PM Russell Hall St. Catherine of Siena 265 Stratton Brook Road West Simsbury Special Guest Panelists Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. Director of Education The National Catholic Bioethics Center Philadelphia, PA Daniel P. O’Connell Chairman St. Francis Care Board of Directors Jeff Mateer, Esq. General Counsel The Liberty Institute, Dallas, TX What it means for Faith, Family and Freedom.

An RSVP would be greatly appreciated so we can better prepare for the event: email: Phone: 860-658-1642 Defenders of Faith The Second in the Series: The Catholic Church in the Public Square Presented by Defenders of Faith.



Former Governor Lowell Weicker says the Connecticut GOP is “irrelevant.”

No one disputes that the CT GOP has been in an exceedingly weak position for decades, a legislative superminority at certain points in the Rell years and even less influential in the Malloy era, with the Democrats now in control of the Governor’s office as well as both chambers of our General Assembly, every other constitutional office and all seven seats of our Washington delegation.

How did it come to this? Here’s Weicker’s explanation:

On WNPR’s Where We Live, Weicker said the GOP needs ideas that are focused on Connecticut, and not just on following the national party’s playbook. “A southern strategy does not work in the state of Connecticut,” Weicker said. “We’re not a religious right state…”

Someone please tell me, when did the CT GOP ever do the things Weicker complains of? When did it ever pursue a Connecticut-as-religious-right-state strategy?

Was it when Jodi Rell signed gay civil unions into law? How about when Rob Simmons voted to keep partial-birth abortion legal? Maybe it was when Nancy Johnson voted AGAINST the Born Alive Infants Protection Act? Was that it?

When was this mythical time when the CT GOP supposedly employed this strategy? Because we here at Family Institute of Connecticut are still waiting for our “irrelevant” CT GOP to at least give it a try.

Mom Dad

You matter…why else would people carve this into their bicep?

One hundred years ago this month, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday. Officially originating in the United States, it became popular worldwide – celebrated in many places, as it is here, on the second Sunday of May – in tandem with local traditions. Anna Jarvis, honoring a wish her mother expressed during a prayer, observed it for the first time in Grafton, West Virginia, not far from my own childhood home. Jarvis herself never married or had children.

Like Jarvis, not every woman will be a mother, at least biologically. Some have had their hopes dashed by health conditions. Some will be adoptive or spiritual mothers. Nor does every child have access to his mother. Some become estranged or bereaved. Others never really knew theirs. Still, this is a universal holiday in that each of us (notwithstanding the technical claim of Shakespeare’s Macduff not to have been born of a woman) has a mother somewhere, and a women’s holiday in essence because of the unique potential that lies within us.

Sometimes we only fully taste the significance of a thing through its absence or loss. This video taps into an uncannily deep, personal, convincing emotion with a song that arose from, and speaks directly to, the human experience.

Reviews of P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book “Are You My Mother?” at and show that the story and associated memories can bring grown men to tears. Here are a few poignant excerpts:

My son was very interested in the story through the entire narration. At the end, he was asking me questions such as “Do all kids have a mom?” … With a lot of care, but with sincerity, I explained to him my thoughts on this.

“Are you my mother?” means: Are you the one who loves me? Are you the one who will take me in and care for me? Are you the one upon whom I can rely, trust, and find this to be a safe world? Because I need to know the one who has brought me into the world and given me life.

I gave my grand daughter this book for her seventh birthday. Why? Her father got a divorce when she was two years old. … Recently,when I read a book of Dr. Seuss to her class and asked the question, “What is your favorite Dr. Seussbook”, every student was ready to give their favorite Dr. Seuss title. But my grand daughter spoke up and said, “My favorite book is “Are You My Mother?”

Fathers would have until the Nixon administration to wait for a proclamation, partly due to backlash against commercialization. However, it did not take long for a natural counterpart to emerge through the efforts of women of faith like Sonora Dodd, the daughter of a Civil War veteran and widower, and Grace Clayton, whose father was among more than 300 men killed in the infamous Monongah mine disaster.

How intelligible is ‘mother’ without ‘father,’ and vice-versa? I once had a professor who talked of “correlative opposites” that imply and make sense of one another. Without grounding in philosophy, it went over my head for years. I think I get it now. Men and women, mothers and fathers, are the yin to each other’s yang.

In times when familial bonds are frequently disrespected, ‘gender deconstruction’ is a vogue idea, and children are treated as possessions, accessories or science projects, our clinging to these twin holidays is a sign of stubborn health and persistent sanity. Mother and father are realities indelibly etched on the human heart.

As I was meditating on all this, a song came over the radio – I kid you not: “When a maa-an loves a woooman…” God, as usual, has a sense of humor!
I’m close with my parents. I’m a lucky girl. This animates my work for the Family Institute: the desire for every child to experience the joy of being known and loved by his mother and father, the way I have been. That would be the case in an ideal world. I know the world is not ideal, but the closer we can move it, the better.


In a July 26, 2012 email alert we told you that FIC and our allies had succeeded in getting the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange Board of Directors to receive a recommendation implementing ObamaCare that did NOT include abortion as an “essential health benefit”. That was the result of some hard work that summer, particularly by two young women members of FIC who testified before the state advisory committee responsible for creating the Health Insurance Exchange.

But it was not the end of the story. Access Health CT offered only health plans that covered abortion anyway, and they are now being sued because of it.

If our state and federal governments had listened to FIC and others when we fought against the inclusion of abortion mandates in ObamaCare, this lawsuit would not be necessary. We will seek a legislative remedy at the state Capitol next year, to have Access Health CT offer a health plan that does not force its members to pay for abortion. In the meantime, our prayers are for the success of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

Hotline sign

On Monday, The New London Day ran this story about Connecticut College leading a suicide prevention effort that would put signs on a city bridge – similar to what has been done on prominent bridges in other states – and on campus. The signs would read “You are not alone” and include a hotline number. Since no students have jumped from the bridge, but there have been a handful of attempts (both complete and incomplete) by locals in the last few years, it would appear that they are acting out of an abundance of caution.

These quotes in particular caught my eye:

The effectiveness of suicide prevention signs at bridges is unknown, said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at the American Federation for Suicide Prevention.

…She suggested that the college test the wording of the message on the signs it plans to install with focus groups comprised of those who have contemplated suicide.

“I wouldn’t want to put up a sign without checking the message,” she said.

I couldn’t help but be reminded that, only a few weeks ago, there was an especially contentious battle over prime messaging real estate — not a bridge, but space in the Capitol concourse. Both Connecticut College and Ms. Harkavy-Friedman demonstrate boatloads more common sense than The Group Formerly Known as Hemlock Society, who present slogans like “My Life, My Death, My Choice” and “Oh, to die on my terms” as dandy for school-age children. Test THAT on your focus group.

Speaking of The Day: if you haven’t already, you can still read Paul Choiniere’s excellent editorial ‘Assisted suicide bill deserves a speedy demise’ here.

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