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Faith-based group hopes to influence legislators next year

Leaders of the North Dakota Family Alliance, a faith-based family advocacy group, said Wednesday they hope to lobby state legislators for the first time next year.

Leaders of the North Dakota Family Alliance, a faith-based family advocacy group, said Wednesday they hope to lobby state legislators for the first time next year.

Chairman Steve Cates said the Bismarck-based group plans to become more organized and active in influencing state politics during the next session, which begins in January.

Though formed in 1987, the alliance has never registered as a lobbyist.

It took one of its first steps toward that level of organization Wednesday by having its first Fargo chapter meeting at the Doublewood Inn.

"We don't have a state organization if we don't have Fargo," Kevin Cramer told the 30 people in attendance. The meeting also marked the first chapter meeting in the state.

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Cramer, a former candidate for North Dakota's U.S. House seat and an alliance board member, said the group needs to strengthen its leadership in a culture fast becoming hostile to Judeo-Christian values and traditional pillars of U.S. government.

He said it is important the alliance remain positive in its push toward restoring more traditional family values and not being viewed as a "right-wing group at the Capitol."

The group will work toward reversing a mounting divorce rate, reuniting children with parents, and restoring people who have traditional family values to leadership roles, Cramer said. The group also hopes to educate the state's citizens on the importance of fathers in a child's life.

The alliance believes married, heterosexual couples should raise children and public policy should be aimed at easing economic pressures on traditional families.

Lawmakers should work with parents to form public education standards, sex should be saved for marriage, and adoption should be encouraged as an alternative to abortion, according to the organization's Web site.

Cates said the group will lobby for the rights of unborn children as one of its goals. He would not elaborate on other policies the alliance may try to influence.

Cramer said it is envisioned the alliance will become one of the 39 family policy councils in the nation, a network that works collectively to influence public policy and law using its large membership base.

The alliance hopes to raise more than $100,000 this year to begin an escrow account that would help it become aligned with Focus on the Family, an influential biblically based organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo. The alliance has raised $30,000 and has pledges for another $20,000 toward that objective.

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The group also hopes to hire a full-time executive director. It has a part-time director and two full-time staff members.

Nancy Schafer, North Dakota's former first lady, was the featured speaker Wednesday.

She called on those in attendance to lead by example and resist efforts to "redefine what actually constitutes a family."

Schafer, widowed at age 37 and a single parent for five years before marrying former Gov. Ed Schafer, said the No. 1 indicator of problem children is the absence of a parent.

"A loving and nurturing home can do more for a child's well being than anything else," she said, earlier relating a story she and Ed Schafer heard from a pastor while vacationing in Bermuda.

"He told us, 'If there is love in the home, there is happiness in the community. If there is happiness in the community, there is order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.' "

Readers can reach Forum reporter Matthew Von Pinnon at (701) 241-5528

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