2,000 stand up for religious freedom at rally

| March 27, 2012 | 3 Comments

Those attending a rally for religious freedom at the Warren E. Burger Federal Building in downtown St. Paul March 23 express their displeasure with President Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services mandate. The rally, organized by Pro-Life Action Ministries, was part of a joint effort held in 143 cities across the United States, and included speakers representing a variety of organizations and faith traditions. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Kathy Nelson of Holy Name of Jesus in Medina is not a teacher. Yet, she felt compelled to act like one at the Federal Building in downtown St. Paul March 23. She joined an estimated crowd of 2,000 to stand up for religious freedom.

Nelson came with her friend, Sue Wagener of St. Mary of the Lake in Plymouth, to protest the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services mandate, which forces all employers, including most religious employers, to offer no-cost contraceptive coverage and sterilizations through their health plans even if it violates their beliefs.

“I want to educate people that it’s not about contraception, it’s about our religious rights and religious liberty,” said Nelson, who sat in the plaza holding a sign as people filed in for the noon rally. “We’ve got to educate the world. It’s happening right under our feet. We’ve got to stand up now.”

Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona addresses a crowd gathered for a rally to defend religious freedom and oppose President Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services mandate. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Powerful sign

Nelson’s latter comment echoed the banner that hung at the rear of a platform from which featured speakers delivered remarks designed both to educate those in attendance and inspire them to action. It read: “Stand Up For Religious Freedom.”

One of the guest speakers was Bishop John Quinn of Winona. He led prayer at the start of the rally and spoke on behalf of the state’s bishops. Clearly, he was pleased by the size of the crowd gathered in the plaza of the federal building.

“How powerful a sign it is to see you all here. This is great. This says to the world that we care about religious freedom,” he said. “It’s time to take back our freedom, to be able to say we are faithful citizens, we are defending the constitution and we want our religious rights.”

The local gathering was part of a national effort, with rallies taking place in 143 cities across the country, according to Catholic News Service. The national “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” initiative was organized by Pro-Life Action League in Chicago and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society based in Michigan. In St. Paul, the rally was organized by Pro-Life Action Ministries, with executive director Brian Gibson also offering remarks.

Also speaking were Teresa Collett, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul; the Rev. Maria Mitchell, associate pastor of Evangelist Crusaders; and Pastor Brad Brandon of Berean Bible Baptist Church in Hastings.

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Also representing the bishops was Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the state’s bishops. He encouraged those in attendance to take concrete steps to oppose the mandate, outlined in a flyer that was distributed during the rally.

“This issue is not about contraception, it’s not about the church banning contraception, it’s not a war on women,” he said. “It’s not about access to health care, which the church has always supported. No, this issue is about government defining what constitutes religious freedom and religion, and that is wrong. It is about government denying basic civil rights, and that is wrong. And, it’s about government forcing us to buy a product that violates our conscience.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, the federal government is requiring people of faith to buy a product that violates their conscience, and that is wrong. It’s time for us to stand up right now and act.”

Feeling that sense of urgency were people like Robin and Brian Taaffe and Steve and Diane Kokesh, all of St. Stephen in Anoka. They held signs during the rally and sang the National Anthem along with the rest of the crowd at the start of the rally.

“We had to be here,”Robin Taaffe said. “We don’t feel that we have a choice. This is too critical.”

Added Steve: “We need to stop this assault on freedom, especially religious freedom. I think it is [also] an assault on the Catholic Church. I think this coming [presidential] election in November is going to be one of the most important and critical elections in the history of our republic.”

For more informationFill out the form on the Minnesota Catholic Conference website. Check “Life and Bio Ethics” under interests to receive HHS mandate-related updates. Also visit the Bio Ethics Section of the MCC website for more information.

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  • Vincewillenbring

    I was at the March 23rd rally, and I was really impressed with content and organization of the rally. Religious speakers were interspersed with those with law expertise to give us in the crowd a broad understanding of the history of religious freedom in this country and how that is now threatened by the HHS mandate. I was also impressed how orderly the rally was, how quickly and efficiently the protesters were bussed to and from the rally and how the presenters kept the rally to an hour as advertised. All in all I believe the 2000+ participants at the rally made a powerful statement that we will not let the HHS mandate stand. Let’s all continue the protesting, educating, pressuring and voting to reject this infringement on our Constitutional Rights to Religious Freedom and Freedom of Conscience! 

  • Married Catholic

    Absolutely, I agree that we Catholics have every right to protect our religious beliefs from government policy that might be imposed upon us.  We have a right to state that in our church, marriage is the union of a man and a woman.  Period.  But….the Archdiocese has spent $650,000 to date in support of a constitutional amendment that will make our belief part of the state law — a constitutional amendment.  As such, it will be imposed upon every citizen, regardless of their religious beliefs.  Aren’t we doing the very thing we’re objecting to?  We’re using government policy to subject others to our way of thinking.  We take away their religious freedom.  Why is that OK?

  • Married Catholic

    The Archdiocese is rallying support to defend our religious liberty as Catholics.  Those who would impose their belief systems on Catholics are being depicted as wrongheaded at best, and a threat to our liberty.  And yet, at the same time, the Archdiocese leads the way in contributing $650,000 (to date) in support of a constitutional amendment defining marriage in a way that is consistent with our Catholic belief system.  By doing so, the Archdiocese seeks to impose its beliefs on all Minnesotans, regardless of how they might feel about marriage.  Aren’t we doing exactly the same thing as those whom we depict as wrongheaded and dangerous?
    p.s. How about leaving my post on the website this time?  Is it that threatening?