May 1, 2009

Indiana Catholic Conference’s new online tool is a success

By Brigid Cutis Ayer

The Indiana Catholic Conference’s (ICC) new online legislative action center was a rousing success thanks to Catholics statewide, said the organization’s executive director.

Thousands of Catholics engaged and influenced state lawmakers during the 2009 session of the Indiana General Assembly using the online tool available on the ICC’s Web page.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the response and involvement of our people this year,” said Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director, who serves as the official spokesperson for the Indiana bishops on public policy matters.

“We had high hopes for the new online tool but, frankly, we really weren’t sure what kind of response we would get. The response exceeded our hopes and, as the session moved along, we had more and more people subscribing to our electronic Catholic network.”

As the 150 members of the Indiana General Assembly head back to their respective home districts following the April 29 adjournment of the legislative session, ICC officials applaud the efforts of the more than 1,300 Catholics who on a regular basis became engaged in the political process. ICC officials also wanted to report on the success that the new online tool provided to the Church’s efforts under the state’s Capitol dome.

Roughly 1,300 persons were contacted about six times per month by the ICC over a four-month period. Over half the people who received communication from the ICC opened the communication.

Since the ICC launched its new software in January, nearly 2,000 Catholics contacted their state or federal lawmakers using the online tool, but many more may have called or written letters using the available information.

The breakdown of the electronic communication is as follows: About half of the nearly 30 e-mails sent were the

I-CAN Update, the ICC’s legislative newsletter; the other half were action alerts. Of the 10 action alerts, five were state legislative alerts, and five were federal alerts.

More than 1,300 persons were sent the federal alert about retaining conscience protection regulation, but 1,866 persons opened the alert either via e-mail or on the ICC Web page, and 420 people contacted their federal representatives on the issue using the online tool.

On the scholarship tax credit state alert, more than 1,250 persons were alerted, more than 1,500 people opened the alert either via e-mail or on the ICC Web page, and at least 511 people contacted lawmakers using the online tool.

Of the nearly 34,000 messages sent by the ICC, nearly 20,000 were opened and nearly 2,000 people responded by contacting lawmakers using the online software; however, many more people may have contacted lawmakers by phone or written a letter.

Nel Thompson, ICC administrative assistant, who administers the electronic program, said, “What’s really great about this system is once I have the Update ready, I can send it to

1,300-plus persons in under 30 seconds, whereas before I would contact a handful of people by e-mail and they in turn contacted others, of course, taking much more than 30 seconds.

“And, once a person follows the link, they are provided with an e-mail message to their legislator, which they can edit, which from our report looks like many of them do this.”

Thompson said that the system provides assurance that the message is received by the networker’s legislator since the system will match the constituent with their respective legislator.

She said another benefit is that people don’t have to be part of the Catholic Action Network to be able to access a lot of valuable information.

“All a person needs to do is go to the ICC Web page,” Thompson said.

“When Catholics contact their representatives in unison with the work of the [Indiana] Catholic Conference, it allows the Church to be more effective in shaping morally sound public policy,” Tebbe said. “The use of this software by Catholics this year made a significant impact influencing lawmakers on two issues, the scholarship tax credit and the physicians admitting privileges requirement for abortion doctors. I don’t really think these two issues would have gotten the attention and action that they did this year without the involvement of so many Catholics.”

Tebbe said he wanted to encourage those who have become involved in the legislative process to “stay tuned.”

The Indiana General Assembly has adjourned, but lawmakers and government officials will continue to conduct business, look at ways to improve the state, and further investigate problems and policies through interim study panels.

“The interim provides time for information gathering and analysis of complex issues leading up to the 2010 session, and the ICC will continue to send out periodic updates on important developments,” Tebbe said. “On the federal level, the Obama administration is moving quickly on numerous issues and there will be periodic federal action alerts. For these reasons, we encourage all to stay tuned and ready for action.

“For those who have not yet had a chance to visit our Web page, or who would like to become part of the Catholic Action Network, there’s no time like the present. Please stop by our Web page. We are only a few clicks a way,” Tebbe said.

To explore the ICC’s online public policy tool and join the ICC network, go to the ICC Web page at and click on “Legislative Action Center.”

Since 1967, the ICC has worked to bring a consistent life ethic to Hoosier public policy making.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion. To learn more about the Indiana Catholic Conference, log on to

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