by Steven Ertelt | LifeNews.com Thousands of pro-life Americans took to nearly 200 local rallies in cities and towns across the country to stand up for religious freedom and against the Obama mandate that requires employers to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.The rally in Washington, D.C. was so large organizers had problems getting the entire crowd in one picture.
Kristan Hawkins, the head of Students for Life of America, was one of the pro-life leaders to address the crowd in the nation’s capital.
“The new mandate, which was released last month, violates our civil liberties and free exercise of religion by forcing every American, every public and private University Student Health Care Plan, and every U.S. Employer, regardless of religion or conscience, to pay for abortion-causing drugs, like Ella, in health insurance plans, she said.
Hawkins added, “Two weeks ago, President Obama’s Secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, Kathleen Sebelius, admitting during a Congressional hearing that this Mandate is needed because, “reducing pregnancies will cut health care costs”. Put bluntly, this mandate, due to take effect this summer, will violate the very principles our nation was founded on – our freedom of religion and conscience!”
“This isn’t an issue simply about the Catholic church, contraception, or abortion. It goes far beyond. Does the government have the right to force you to pay for a product that violates your conscience or religious beliefs? And if it does, what stops them there?” Hawkins added. “Ask yourself who stands to gain from this Mandate? Who will make money off it? Those who are pushing it: Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities.”
Eric Scheidler, the main organizer of the event, said the rally “has exploded into what may well be the single largest nationwide pro-life event in history.”
“Barack Obama’s HHS Mandate has awoken a sleeping giant. I’ve never seen so much zeal [in the pro-life community],” he said. “People are deeply offended that President Obama’s HHS Mandate casts fertility as a medical condition and pregnancy as a disease requiring free, mandated “preventive care.” And they’re horrified that Obama’s phony “religious exemption” excludes from the realm of religious ministry such things as feeding the hungry and caring for the sick.”
Father Peter J. West, Vice President for Missions with Human Life International took part in one of the local rallies in Virginia.
“When the government decides that the First Amendment of the Constitution must be obliterated so that some may receive free non-life saving drugs, our entire nation has a serious problem,” said West. “This is one hundred percent about freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, and it affects every citizen, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.”
“We have received commitments from local schools and businesses, including some of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters who recognize the threat to religious liberty that that HHS mandate represents,” said Fr. West. “We have research that shows how corrupt the process of adopting the mandate by the Obama administration really was. This mandate is not good for women’s health, it is murderous for unborn children and it is as flagrant an offense against the United States Constitution as one can imagine. The Church will not stand for this unjust mandate, which is why we choose to STAND UP FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.”
Jeff White and Cheryl Conrad of Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust joined rally participants in Los Angeles.
“This rally is intended to draw attention to the injustice of the federal government’s riding rough-shod over the conscience of American citizens as we seek to generate even stronger national opposition to the HHS Mandate-a ruling already opposed by millions of Americans,” said Jeff White. “We pledge to work for its ultimate reversal.”
White continued, “The HHS mandate actually seeks to define what constitutes religious ministry in its narrowly crafted so-called exemption. This sort of government intrusion must be opposed. This is not about the issue of contraception-this is about protecting religious liberty as it is enshrined in the United States Constitution.”
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition and D.C. rally captain/organizer, chimed in as well.
“We are honored to be hosting a ‘Stand Up for Religious Freedom’ rally here in Washington, D.C. at the HHS building. Health and Human Services is at the center of the debate concerning President Obama’s unjust mandates on faith institutions,” he said. “We agree with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops when they say these mandates, ‘…involve needless government intrusion in the internal governances of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.”