Catholic group uses geographic data to target parishes in Virginia race for governor

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The CatholicVote political action committee is trying to reach voters in Virginia through data that identifies their respective parishes – reflecting how prominent faith has become in US politics under President Biden.

The new strategy involves geofencing, or using data received by apps to identify the locations of smartphone users. CatholicVote aims to find voters who actually attend Mass in Virginia and reach them through their fellow parishioners.

“We are targeting these Catholics with digital advertising directly to their devices,” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch. “But ultimately we believe that the most effective way to get them to vote is a friendly one-on-one conversation with another Catholic.”

“CatholicVote’s team of volunteers across Virginia use an app to call other Catholics in their communities and ask them to pledge to vote. When a person makes a verbal commitment to someone they share with a link, she’s much more likely to go all the way. “

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There are approximately 700,000 Catholics in the state. So far, the target group is 180 of the more than 200 Catholic parishes in the state of Virginia. Many of those targeted are in Northern Virginia, whose population has grown and has helped color the state bluer in recent years.

CatholicVote is technically non-partisan and its new campaign focuses on participation. Still, the effect will likely help Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, as devotion to Catholic education tends to correlate with conservative political persuasion. Burch also openly attacked Biden, suggesting Americans were not “fooled” by his campaign advertisements portraying the then-candidate as a loyal Catholic.

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The actions of President Biden, the second president to identify as Catholic, and the Supreme Court have elevated abortion into the national conversation.

The issue of the lingering culture war could become even more contentious in purple states like Virginia as the court prepares to decide whether Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban is constitutional. Both sides of the debate see the challenge as an opportunity to weaken the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, ultimately restoring the power of state governments to regulate procedure.

Like Biden, McAuliffe identifies as Catholic and has taken positions that critics describe as blatantly contradicting Church teaching on the issue.

Both favored the codification of Roe v. Wade, who abortion advocates say would allow doctors to perform the procedure until birth.

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The catechism section discussing abortion says the procedure and infanticide “are heinous crimes”.

It reads as follows: “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and political authorities. The Catechism also warns that “when the State does not put its power at the service of the rights of every citizen, and in particular of the most vulnerable, the very foundations of a rule of law are undermined”.


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