Beacon of Hope gala to honor Mike and Jane Norton

Coloradans Mike and Jane Norton don’t stand for assaults on religious liberty. They fight anti-freedom bullies, and frequently win.

The 2018 Beacon of Hope Gala, Jan. 27, will recognize the couple for their longstanding and ongoing defense of freedom and life. The annual gala benefits Marisol Services, a Catholic Charities agency that provides health care, housing, and human services to men and women struggling with unexpected pregnancies.

“Not being Catholic, it is a high honor to receive this recognition from a Catholic organization so dedicated to life and religious liberty,” said Mike Norton.

The First Amendment expressly protects individuals to exercise religion, free from infringement by government. On that basis, Jane Norton took immediate action after an independent audit found Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains used state taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortions.

The Nortons believe the state violates the religious convictions of Catholics and other abortion opponents by forcing them to pay taxes toward the contractual killing of unborn children.

To bolster the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty, the Colorado Constitution strictly forbids using state taxpayer dollars to directly or indirectly fund abortions. About 30 states have similar laws.

Colorado voters approved Initiative 3 in 1984, which said the constitution will prohibit “use of public funds by the State of Colorado or any of its agencies or political subdivisions to pay or reimburse, directly or indirectly, any person, agency, or facility for any induced abortion…”

As director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2003, Jane Norton cut off state funds to the abortion business by executive fiat. Then-Gov. Bill Ritter, a Catholic, restored funding in 2007 by executive fiat.

Norton sued, with the assistance of husband Mike Norton – who doubles as her lawyer. The Colorado Supreme Court heard the case in November, and has not issued a ruling.

HHS Mandate

Jane Norton currently serves as director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, so the couple maintain a home near Washington, D.C., and near Denver. Their home parish is First Baptist Church, of Alexandria, Va.

Jane Norton recently announced her resignation from HHS, effective Dec. 31, and the couple plan to attend the gala.

Jane Norton’s extensive public service record includes work as regional director for HHS under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She was elected as Colorado’s lieutenant governor in 2003.

Mike Norton, former U.S. attorney for Colorado appointed by Reagan, is president and general counsel for the non-profit legal organization Colorado Freedom Institute. He also works with other law firms to defend religious liberty.

While fighting to defund Planned Parenthood, the Nortons also fought to protect the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Cherry Creek Mortgage Company, Hercules Industries, a consortium of nursing homes and other employers from a federal mandate that requires them to cover abortion pills with their company health care plans.

“Small employers have achieved some exemptions, but several states – including Washington, California, Pennsylvania and about seven different states – have sought to declare the new exemptions invalid,” Mike Norton said. “So we continue to fight the battle and see how we can help ensure people of faith are allowed not just the freedom of religion in their homes and places of worship, but in the marketplace.”

Masterpiece Cakes

The Nortons drafted Colorado Amendment 43, which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Voters passed the law by 56 percent in 2006.

Before the Supreme Court negated the law with its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, Lakewood cake artist Jack Phillips declined to create a cake expression that would celebrate a same-sex marriage ceremony held in another state. The Nortons rushed to his defense. The case led to a court battle the U.S. Supreme Court heard this month and will rule on next spring.

Mike Norton represented Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakes, in early stages of the case, and filed an amicus brief supporting him in the Supreme Court case. The Nortons believe the First Amendment prevents government from requiring Phillips and other artists to create expressions that counter their religious convictions.

Work to be done

Fighting to preserve and expand religious liberty was never easy, but the past decade presented an elevated challenge. One step forward for was sometimes countered by two steps back. The Nortons believe things have improved, in regard to religious liberty, with the election of President Donald Trump.

“Religious liberty was in grave peril during the Obama administration,” Mike Norton said. “The administration very much held to the concept that people were free to worship, so long as they kept it in their homes and inside the four walls of a church. The administration believed we could not take religious principles into the marketplace, as shown by the abortion pill mandate.

“The Trump administration has done all it can do to dramatically turn that concept around.”

One president cannot save the First Amendment, so the Nortons will continue their mission.

“Trump’s efforts have been met with great resistance by federal courts, most of which are controlled by progressive justices appointed by Obama,” Mike Norton said. “We have been so honored to work with the Catholic Church over the years in defense of religious liberty, and the work is not done. Lots of prayer, effort and focus need to continue.”

COMING UP: Marisol clinics help abortion-vulnerable women choose life, rebuild lives

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Marisol clinics help abortion-vulnerable women choose life, rebuild lives

Catholic Charities offers health care, housing and human services to women with crisis pregnancies

Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about 4 in 10 of these are terminated by abortion, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion, the 2013 study shows.

There were 8,333 abortions last year in Colorado, a decrease of nearly 18 percent from 2015, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Marisol Health, a network of medical clinics run by Catholic Charities of Denver, aided that decrease by providing life-affirming medical care, counseling and social services to women facing crisis pregnancies.

Denisa Thomas, 28, is among the women Marisol Health helped to bring their unborn babies to birth. Thomas had already had three abortions and several miscarriages when she first visited Marisol’s Denver clinic, strategically located across the street from abortion provider Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ headquarters.

Adding to Thomas’ distress: the father of her unborn child was incarcerated, she had no health insurance and an 8-year-old son to care for.

“Planned Parenthood was my favorite place to run to,” Thomas said. “That’s mostly the reason why I’ve done abortions in the past, out of fear of being a single mom and struggling.”

With her history, Thomas feared she couldn’t have a healthy pregnancy.

“I thought maybe I had messed my body up and I wanted to see … if the baby was OK,” she said.

At Marisol Health she heard the baby’s heartbeat and saw her growing child via an ultrasound.

“If God gave me one more chance to have this baby, I’ve got to have it,” she decided.

The compassionate staff at Marisol Health helped her make a plan. They scheduled her appointments, gave her donated clothing and suggested resources to help during pregnancy, and after. She now takes classes at Community College of Aurora and worked part-time while awaiting the birth of her child.

Thomas has reclaimed her dignity and, with it, confidence.

“I’m really proud of myself,” she said. “I got over my fear.”

This wall of photos at Marisol Health highlights the many babies that were born because of the low-cost and compassionate care they offered women. (Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

That’s the goal of Marisol Health, said Jan McIntosh, Catholic Charities’ vice president of women’s services.

“We try to address all the barriers women are seeing in their lives that are influencing their consideration of abortion,” McIntosh said. “We really try to walk with them and help them realize they have more options than they might see at the current time.”

Formerly known as Lighthouse Pregnancy Center, the name of the clinic was changed to Marisol Health in July 2016, when it also expanded its services to offer women affordable, comprehensive health care. Within a short time it added a second location in Lafayette and an outreach office at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“We wanted to come up with a brand that would resonate primarily with women in the childbearing years,” McIntosh said, adding they were led by research from the Vitae Foundation, which helps pro-life organizations create messaging that resonates with abortion vulnerable women.

Vitae Foundation findings show that women with crisis pregnancies often shy away from overtly religious clinics for fear of being judged, McIntosh said. The Spanish name Marisol, she added, aims to evoke the beauty and essence of nature while subtly paying homage to Catholic values.

“Marisol was created from mar, which means sea, and sol, which means sun,” McIntosh said. “In history, it’s also a term that honors the Blessed Mother.”

The name is believed to be a shortened version of Maria de Sol, “Mary of the Sun,” or Maria de la Soledad, “Mary of Solitude.”

Marisol Health clinics are welcoming, women-focused centers whose Catholic identity shines through the chapels available for the guests and the Christian care of the staff.

The clinics are just one arm of Marisol Services, which also includes housing for single expectant mothers, single mothers with children and single women, who are experiencing homelessness, through four Marisol Homes, and human services through other Catholic Charities entities.

“It’s a pro-life continuum of services,” McIntosh said.

During fiscal year 2017, Marisol Health served 821 clients, 70 percent of whom earn less than $30,000. Additionally, 133 babies were born to mothers assisted by Marisol Health. The most recent may be Thomas’ daughter Leah, who was born Dec. 12.

Marisol Health made possible the seeming impossibility for Thomas to have her child and to build a brighter family life and future. She continues to be served through Marisol Health.

“When I go in I feel like I’m the only person there,” she said. “If I have a bad day, I go to talk to someone. I get plenty of support.”

In fiscal year 2017, the number of women who received prenatal care at Marisol Health increased four-fold. The clinics are now at, or close to, capacity given their current number of providers, for prenatal visits, McIntosh said.

“As we grow are going to need many more resources so we can continue to serve more women,” she said. “We also need to expand our digital marketing, that’s where women are going to search for abortions. We are doing some digital marketing but we need to expand it, to enable us to help women as they come to that crisis point.”


For information or to donate visit