Meet Brian Burch, President and Co-Founder of Catholic Vote
Jerry talks to Brian Burch, president and co-founder of Catholic Vote.
Jerry Ewalt: Welcome to the First Right podcast, a weekly conservative new show brought to you by Restoration of America. I'm your host, Jerry Ewalt, chief marketing officer for Restoration of America. Today, we are blessed to have a special guest Brian Burch president and co-founder of Catholic Vote, a strong and forceful advocacy organization that knows how to move the needle. Brian, welcome to the show.
Brian Burch: Great to be with you today.
Jerry Ewalt: Awesome. Hey, before we get into all, I have a list of questions for you before we get into that. I'd love to know a little bit more about your background and how and why you started Catholic vote or coast coast started.
Brian Burch: I've always been interested in politics, grew up like a lot of people my age in a family watching Ronald Reagan was taught to love our country, taught to love freedom, went to school, studied political philosophy at the university of Dallas. And then eventually ended up working with a gentlemen named Tom Monaghan who created Domino's pizza and eventually sold it. And what he wanted to do was to give, give his money away for the rest of his life. So he could get to get as many people to heaven is what he described. And one of the things he began doing was investing in politics and legal advocacy, and he eventually decided ultimately to build a university town in Florida. And so some of his team and myself created Catholic vote back in 2005 to help give Catholics a voice too often, as many of you know, so many in the church, either ignore the church teaching or they miss apply a lot of Catholic teaching. And we thought that Catholic lay people needed someone to represent them. And so we started at Catholic vote and we've been growing and we're now one of the largest, if not the largest Catholic lay advocacy organizations in the country.
Jerry Ewalt: Yeah, I know you guys have done a tremendous job. So this is, this is started in 2005. Is that correct?
Brian Burch: 2005, we legally started. We adopted the name Catholic vote in 2008, but so our real history goes back. At least as the IRS is concerned back to 2005.
Jerry Ewalt: Well, I mean, you guys have had a major impact in the United States. So I want to thank you. And I want to also congratulate you for all the work that you, your colleagues and, and many other organizations have done in helping to overturn Roe. So congratulations. Cause I know this is a, this is a huge milestone for millions of Americans. And so my question to you then is how do you think that's going to change the political landscape coming up for the midterms in the fall?
Brian Burch: Well, thank you. Of course it's difficult to take any credit because I stand on the shoulders of five decades of the pro-life movement that has been working so hard in so many different ways to get us to this day that we're at. I mean, this is really a momentous and historic moment in American history, not just in terms of whether religion or politics and I, there's no question that this midterm election is going to include the debate about abortion policy, particularly with respect to how it will be applied in many of the states. I think the democratic party has chosen to make this a priority for this election in part, because they don't have many other issues to run on, including the economy, including crime, including a lot of the things that are at the top of the list of priorities for Americans. And so we're going to see both sides, I think, debate as they should now that the Supreme court is remove the shackles off of this issue and is allowed I think rightly so, Americans to determine in a civil policy debate, state by state, how to best protect and care for women in need, women who are pregnant, women who find themselves in diff difficult serpent circumstances.
And, and frankly, I think the idea that abortion is the only option and that abortion should be the perceived as the only solution for women has been terrible for women. It's been terrible for our country and people that like myself would disagree with that I think are working as best we can in public policy. And of course in this election to prioritize policies that are going to come stand beside women, help them when they are in these these circumstances. And let's become a country that celebrates life again.
Jerry Ewalt: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think when you think of all the work that went into getting Roe overturned, you know, we can't say that the battle is over. It's just what we can't say. It's just beginning either we're right in the middle of it. And so the, the work begins almost again at the state level. So there's so much to do there, but again, grateful for all the stuff that you've done. And, and rightly so, it's, it's not only a group, it's a, it's many groups out there, but it's a, it's a joint effort and we just, we should take a moment to at least celebrate that and acknowledge that. But there's a lot of work left to do.
Brian Burch: Absolutely. There's no question we give thanks to God for the moment we have, but as an all things, plenty of work left to do including over the next month.
Jerry Ewalt: That's right. That's right. And, and, and as we talked about the, the race, the midterms coming up, I mean, that's going to be another major milestone if we can pull that off as well. Fantastic. Okay.
Brian Burch: Absolutely. I mean, you're going to have essentially control over the house and Senate on the line. Things are going to be difficult, a lot of these races and you're going to have some of these issues like abortion policy, but of course, economic policy debate about schools, about children, about parental rights, about violence in our cities, all of these issues are on the ballot this November.
Jerry Ewalt: So Brian in a related topic, right? One of the things that I'm extremely impressed with Catholic vote and what they've done is what I call some of their, their features or initiatives. Right? And so I, I we'd like to start with, cause there's a bunch of them. I'd like to start with the Catholic accountability project that kind of feeds into this heroes and zeros report. The scorecard you've got on your, on your website, start us at the beginning. Where, how did this start off this accountability project? And how did it lead into some other features initiatives that you guys have rolled out?
Brian Burch: Well, thanks for asking about that. It is one of the more popular programs that we have that Catholic accountability project. And unfortunately it was necessary because as you know, as many people know, we have a few Catholics in leadership roles in Congress, in the white house, that claim to be Catholic. Some of them claim to be devout Catholic, which is a little awkward because people that are devout Catholic usually don't describe themselves that way. But we felt there is a need for Catholics to hold public officials who claim to be Catholic accountable to, to church teaching into what we believe over a third of, of the house of representatives are Catholic. And so many of them unfortunately do not uphold these core teachings of our faith. You know, it's awkward because you have Catholics, this, that, that are out there, they go out on the campaign trail.
They described themselves as devout Catholics, and yet they get to Washington DC and they seem to forget everything would any other institution allow this, this kind of participation in their club, membership, church, faith, et cetera, to essentially publicly celebrate themselves as a member of the organization and then turn around. And backstab that organization time and time again. And frankly, Catholics in the pews have gotten fed up. They're sick of being lied to they're sick of the duplicity and the hypocrisy. And they said, someone's got to do something about this. And so we came up with this, a Catholic accountability project to do several things. Number one, name names. What we hear so often from Catholics is I had no idea that they voted for this or voted for that. I thought they were a good Catholic or I thought they cared about the issues that I care about.
So part of it is just educating Catholics in the pews that this person actually is selling out our faith when they get to Washington DC. The second thing is to do something that the institutional church doesn't do and probably shouldn't do, but that lay Catholics have to do. And that is get into the messy world of politics and get on the ground and hold them accountable with advertising, with our Catholic board action network door to door news, mailings calls, text messages, all the tools we have as Americans to influence each other. And we do that. We have no problem getting political. Sometimes people don't like that, or sometimes people think that's divisive and that people in the Catholic church or religious people shouldn't do politics. We wholeheartedly reject that idea. We are very proud to be Catholic and proud to be American, and we need to be out there helping inform our fellow citizens Catholic or otherwise about what our elected officials say and do.
Jerry Ewalt: No, I, I couldn't agree with you more. We, we need to reverse that thinking of, you know, keeping religion outside of, of politics. And, and there, there is a place to do that. Don't get me wrong, but this is having a major impact on how we worship God. And, and along the lines of what God's laws are. Right. And I, I like to always say that too many politicians care more about what their constituents think than what God does, right? So if you fear God more than your constituents, you, you will be a different politician. I'll put it that way. And I love how you guys hold them accountable. I see on your website, 58% of Catholics in Congress, right. Are pro abortion, which is clearly against the teaching of the Catholic church.
Brian Burch: That's right. I mean, it's a scandal and it's a shame. And it's something that church actually has tools to combat. And unfortunately has been resistant to do that because they're worried again about being divisive, or they're worried that some Catholics may stop going to church because they don't like the church holding them accountable. But there again, there's, there's a role here for priests and bishops. And there's a role here for lay people and Catholic vote is a lay organization, and we're going to do the things that we are compelled to do. You know, our church had this big debate last summer over whether to deny the Eucharist, for example, to pro-abortion politicians. I like to say the bishops made their decision. They chose not to do that, and we're going to make our decision. We can't deny them the Eucharist, but we can deny them their seats in Congress.
Jerry Ewalt: I love that that th that you are mobilizing that base and holding them accountable. And it's, it's fantastic. And that's kind of spilled into some other things that you're done. So tell us a little bit about your, your heroes and zeros report.
Brian Burch: The heroes and zeros is kind of a fun little thing we do every month. And we thought once again, how do we hold Catholic leaders accountable, but also celebrate those Catholics that are out there exhibiting courage that in the face of an onslaught of opposition from Progressive's and from left-wing ideologues that are actually defending the truths that they actually believe as Catholics. For example, last month we celebrated governor Doug Ducey in Arizona, a Catholic who signed the most expansive school choice bill in American history in Arizona. You have obviously Catholics on the other side, Nancy Pelosi, AOC, Joe Biden, a number of senators. The, the list is as long, unfortunately, that UNF that when confronted with the challenge of whether or not to take seriously what they claim to believe as Catholics actually surrender that for the sake of political expediency or to keep their, you know, left wing base happy. And no, there's no better example of that than, than president Biden.
Jerry Ewalt: Yeah, no, I've, I've seen a Polosi by an AOC on the zeros almost every time. Have they ever made it over to the hero list?
Brian Burch: Not yet. I'm not holding my breath, but certainly we pray, pray that that someday becomes the case. But like, as you point out at the end of our, all of our lives, at least we, as Christians believe we will be held account and we're going to have to give an account of, of our obedience, to God's laws and all this political stuff will be far less significant than that choice. And so I always, we always should hold out hope that even the, the worst sinner, so to speak is capable of, of renewal and conversion.
Jerry Ewalt: Oh, absolutely. We always, we always talk about the thief on the cross, right. Can you imagine though, if, if some of these politicians who claim to be Catholic claim to be Christian actually had that conversion and the impact that it would have on our country, it's unbelievable. So we're taught to pray, right? For all of our elected officials, and we need to keep doing that, but we also need to hold them accountable, which again is what you guys are doing with these heroes, the zeros, and then this kind of actually moves now into the scorecard. Tell us a little bit about the scorecards.
Brian Burch: Well, the scorecard is something we do for Catholics once again, to make sure they understand where their leaders are and where they're voting on individual pieces of legislation. We had a recent bill and I think it came up again this week and the house of representatives called the women's health protection act. It's being billed as this legislation that would codify Roe V. Wade. It does no such thing. It goes much further than that. It's it would legalize abortion for any reason, up into the ninth month, including the late painful abortions, it would strip parental rights. So no parent would know if their teenage daughter was accessing an abortion, it would force taxpayers to pay for abortion. So this is a perfect example of a Catholic politicians voting for this legislation. Some of them co-sponsoring this bill, and then going back into their districts and trying to hide behind their so-called Catholic identity. And so Catholic voters deserve to know, and we distribute these scorecards into congressional districts across states. We do this in a particularly innovative way because we target mobile devices that have been in and out of the Catholic churches. So we know these are people who care about the faith, who are still practicing the faith. I think that's, it is an important segment of the Catholic vote that is often missed.
Jerry Ewalt: Yeah, no, no, absolutely. And how do you, how do you do the scoring? Right? Cause it's not like you're, you're probably sitting around and saying, okay, Nancy Pelosi, we're giving you enough. Right. What do you, what do you, what do you look into the criteria? Is it is a consistency. How they're voting, is it, how, how do you come up with those scores?
Brian Burch: Well, we do have a matrix of bills and as many organizations do we call it, you know, we're going to score this bill. We take what we call the key pieces of legislation that are proposed in every session of Congress, whether it be on life issues, whether it be on immigration, whether it be on a whole array of issues. And, and we, we rate their voting record planned parenthood, the NRA, all, all types of groups have this kind of scoring mechanism when we think Catholics deserve the same window or transparency when it comes to their own leaders, that claim to be Catholic.
Jerry Ewalt: No, I think, I think that's, that's fantastic again, holding them accountable. And, and are you also looking at some of the candidates coming up in the, in the midterms and kind of rating them ahead of what you think they will do? Or how, how do you do that? It kind of helped guide Catholics across the country to know maybe who are the, the ones that would be more aligned with Catholic vote.
Brian Burch: Yeah, sure. What we do, we're looking at every race across the country. We look at obviously the house and Senate, you have a lot of races that are very tight. We like to participate in competitive races where we think we can make a difference. And we go and do our research team goes in investigates. These candidates often speaks with them. Personally. We submit a questionnaire to them. We look at their voting record. We looked at what they say in public. And then we come up with some decisions about how, when, why we should get involved. You know, we, we obviously try to mobilize the Catholic vote, but when it comes to elected officials, you don't have to be Catholic for us to like you much of Catholic social teaching is not exclusive to Catholics. You know, we're not just trying to get the, we're not trying to get the immaculate conception made into a national holiday. You know, we're, we're, we're trying to defend and promote life defendant promote ordered Liberty defended and promote a stable, stable society. Whether it be in our border or on the streets of our major cities, these are all things that people of Goodwill, people of decency and common sense can agree with. And so Catholics have a lot in common with what I think the general public wants to see in this country.
Jerry Ewalt: Oh yeah, absolutely. I traditional American values, you know, getting on God's side of the argument and staying there, you know, you don't have to be Catholic for those types of things, but yeah, there's, there's great alignment there and we're doing all of the same stuff at the restoration America as well. So that's fantastic. Brian, I'm, I'm interested, we're doing, you're doing a lot of work at the political level national state. How far down does that go? One of the things that's near and dear to my heart, my wife and I are very involved in the school districts just because we have kids at this school age at those school ages, but also because they're under such massive attack. And I understand that the Catholic schools are under that type of attack as well. Are you doing anything at the school level for high school and below?
Brian Burch: And this is always the interesting debate you have is how much do you kind of focus at the higher level and economy of the big picture races versus getting down into the states and as you suggest, even school board elections, I think one of the things that Dobbs decision has done is it's refocused a lot of organizations, including ours on the, on to the priorities in the states and at the local level, the court did the right thing. It returned this question to the states and therefore our investments and our focus needs to also return to the states in part to make sure that we are helping bring about the change that this decision is enabling. And so we are involved in some governor's races. We haven't directly got involved in a school board race per se. So at that minute level, but there are some places that we're looking at doing that. And especially places where Catholics, I think have a very vested interest in protecting the safety and innocence of their children that are in these public schools that are far too often are threatening. You know, the, the rights of parents to direct their children's education.
Jerry Ewalt: I know it's a real issue and it's, it's eyeopening to see, I mean, this is our future and our future is under great attack right now in this country. And if we can't fix that and everything we do at the top and the older generations, it's not gonna, it's not going to matter in the next, you know, 10, 20 years from now. So
Brian Burch: The left has been very smart about this. They know that the children are the future and they've focused right there and we have to meet them on that turf. We, we can not give an inch when it comes to the school issues. When it comes to the rights of parents, the rights of parents to choose the right school for their children and the rights of parents to know exactly what is being taught to their kids and to make sure the types of things being taught in our schools are not that, that divisive race, sexual, and otherwise kind of identity politics that I think has corrupted the country in so many ways. And so many parents recognize this for what it is, and they need to be empowered and they need organizations like ours to come in and back them up.
Jerry Ewalt: I know there, there seems to be an awakening among the parents. You know, you like this thinking that, you know, are they asleep or they just say, Hey, my kid's about to graduate. It's not a big deal, but this, everyone needs to get involved and see what's going on because it is our futures. We've discussed
Brian Burch: 100%.
Jerry Ewalt: This was, this has been great. Is there anything else that you want to share with the audience?
Brian Burch: Well, you know, I think there's something interesting going on when it comes to Catholics. And that is when w with Hispanics, Hispanics are not monolithic. Theyre are different in each state. The Hispanics are different in Florida than they are in Arizona and Nevada, but you know, 55 to 60% of Hispanics in this country are Catholic. And when we talk about the Catholic vote and the profitability of, of politics, when it comes to the Catholic vote, I think people need to pay very close attention to what's happening here. And particularly among working class Hispanics that are growing tired and disillusioned by the hard left swing of the democratic party. And there's real opportunities here to build alliances and to build momentum behind what I would say is kind of a new political era that is emerging. And I think Hispanics are going to play a big role in helping achieve a lot of the things we've just talked about.
Jerry Ewalt: Yeah, it is. Thank you for bringing that up. It's, it's amazing to see that shift and right. And see a lot of people that have come to this country have had been fleeing these socialist countries. Right. And I think there's an awakening going on that, that we don't want. There's a reason why a lot of them left those countries and we don't want to see that same thing happen in America. And that's in fact where we see the direction so far from the leftist. So I'm glad you brought that up.
Brian Burch: Great. Well, thank you so much for having me on it's an honor. I'm big fans of what you guys are doing as well and proud to be in the fight with restoration and all that you guys are doing.
Jerry Ewalt: All right. That's our show for today. Thank you so much for tuning in and supporting conservative media. Don't ever forget that by working together and staying diligent, we conservatives can bring our country back to true greatness until next week. Let's all keep praying that God will continue to bless America
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