Brief Bio of our Founder
Marlene Elwell, driven by her Catholic faith, has devoted much of her adult life to public service and continues to do so as Founder, CEO and President of Catholics in the Public Square.
Mrs. Elwell has a strong history of bringing leadership and organizational skills to start-up companies, cause initiatives, organizations and campaigns. Featured in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and other leading publications as one of the nation’s most able strategists, she has a well-deserved reputation for leading successful projects.
An avowed doer, Elwell marched with Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez in protests against the exploitation of blacks and migrant workers. She has championed the pro-life campaign from its beginning and was, as a democrat, responsible for the writing and adoption of the pro-life plank in the Republican Party platform, earning the Gabriel Richard Institute’s “The Power of One Person Award.”
While raising five children of her own, her home became a sanctuary for the foster care of indigent youngsters. She also took on the challenge of fostering newborn babies until permanent homes were found for them. The plight of needy families in her home state, Michigan, led her to form JMJ Enterprises which supervised the purchase and renovation of HUD and VA houses, restoring self worth and opening doors to a more productive life for many.
Mrs. Elwell was the Director, in the developing stages of Legatus, an international organization of Catholic business leaders, headed by Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, which seeks to foster creative, moral and spiritual entrepreneurship in the private sector.
During the period of 1993 to 2000, Mrs. Elwell rose to the top position of Regional Vice President of American Communications Network, an international communications marketing company where she was introduced to the Internet world. Even though she was struck by the power of the Internet to bring people together and its utility as an instrument for advancing education and research, Mrs. Elwell was affronted by the proliferation of pornographic sites on the Web and the threat to the moral integrity of our young people.
As the Founder of FreedomISP, a filtered Internet service provider, Mrs. Elwell spent the past several years, and her own resources, researching and identifying filtering software alternatives that will ensure a “Simple, Safe Internet” service. It was during this research period that Mrs. Elwell recognized the urgent need to educate parents and guardians about the pervasiveness of Internet pornography and so founded the FreedomISP Foundation, using the motto, “Once the innocence of a child is lost, it’s lost forever”.
“Be Not Afraid!” Inspired by these words of Pope John Paul II, and his call for the laity to be a voice in the public square, having an impact on the culture, rather than the culture having an impact on us as Catholic Christians, Mrs. Elwell founded Catholics in the Public Square, a Catholic grassroots organization dedicated to being inspired and to inspiring, to being challenged and to challenging, and to being equipped and to equipping others so as to be instruments for building a civilization of love based on the inherent dignity of every human being. Some recent project that Mrs. Elwell and CPS took on (see "Current Projects" for entire list):
The People's Override
In October 2003, overriding a supermajority in both the Michigan House and Senate, Governor Jennifer Granholm vetoed state legislation which would have defined the point at which human life is to receive legal and civil protection, and would have banned the practice of partial birth abortion in the state of Michigan. Catholics in the Public Square then joined Right to Life of Michigan and other organizations in a petition drive to override Granholm’s veto and bring the Legal Birth Definition Act back before the legislature. CPS volunteers and those from other organizations collected more than 460,000 signatures from state residents for the petition, which was then approved by the Michigan House 74-28 and the Senate 23-12, making a ban on partial birth abortions state law.
Marriage Protection Amendment
More than 500,000 people signed a petition in 2004 saying they wanted to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Then they went to the polls, voting to establish this tradional definition of marriage in our state's constitution. Marlene Elwell was the champion who, against all odds, led the ballot initiative for Proposal 2. When everyone was saying we don’t have money, we don’t have enough time, we don’t have an organization, Marlene knew God had said to move forward. A miracle happened and in nine weeks Michigan citizens far exceeded everyone’s expectations by delivering over 500,000 signatures, setting a state record.
The bedrock of this effort was Christian citizens. They were heard in America’s democratic process. And now marriage, biblically defined, has been secured for the generations behind us. Together we created a legacy to leave for our children.
While we won a major battle, we all realize a war is still raging in our culture. That’s the reason why we are building a grassroots organization in Michigan called Michigan Christian Citizens Alliance. The goal of this organization is to unite Christians across the state so our voices can be heard in the public square. Now is the time to organize ourselves. As we saw with the marriage amendment, we can have great impact if we work together. Numbers count!
Marlene Elwell’s Leadership Experience
As the President of MCCA, Marlene brings years of experience and wisdom in the cultural battle for faith and values. A few of her resume highlights include:
- Instrumental in establishing Michigan Right To Life
- Fomed an ogranization to put the pro-life language in the Republican platform
- Instrumental in forming the Christian Coalition
- Organized Iowa for the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment
- Organized Michigan’s effort to add the Marriage Amendment to our State Constitution
Keys to the Strategy
- Build a grassroots organization by enlisting a County Leader for all 83 counties who find a Church Contact in each church.
- Use internet and computer technology to link Christians across the state and to educate and mobilize them to be a voice for faith and values in the public square.
We call upon Christians across Michigan to join us in a united effort to advance Christian values and principles in our culture and the public square and to aspire towards a noble society where virtue is esteemed and Christian faith is honored.
It is the hope of CPS, that through “Our Voice, Our Values, Our Vision” we will have a positive influence for the solidarity and common good of all.