Group to host Rally for Religious Liberty at state Capitol

| February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

usflagMembers of Ham Lake parish want to inspire, educate with speakers

Members of a grassroots group, Light for Freedom, are taking their message to the state Capitol Rotunda Feb. 24, the day before the new legislative session, with a Rally for Religious Liberty. Suzanne and Jeffery Bartels, parishioners from St. Paul in Ham Lake, formed the group last fall.

Planning to show their support at the rally are members of Colorado’s Little Sisters of the Poor, the group of nuns that recently received an injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that would require them to provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraception, violating the teachings of their faith.

“I just felt that the fact that they could be present there would speak so clearly to everyone about what we’re really doing, and how threatened we are,” said St. Paul parishioner and Light for Freedom member Sharon Balk. “To have these beautiful Little Sisters who care for elderly people who can’t afford care . . . I mean, there’s a visual of why we need to be passionate about this and what’s at risk for us.”

Suzanne Bartels said Light for Freedom reached out to a variety of speakers in order to convey the rally’s theme of unity. The group acknowledged that promoting religious liberty isn’t just a Catholic cause, so the rally’s local speakers represent different religions and political parties.

On the agenda are John Tolo of the SafeCity Project, Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, Autumn Leva of the Minnesota Family Council, Gary Borgendale of KKMS 980 AM, Pastor Mike Smith of Redeeming Love Church in Maplewood, Trevor Rubenstein of Good News for Israel, and Sen. Michelle Benson. They will lead attendees in a program of education, encouragement and prayer.

Jeffery Bartels said the average person concerned about infringements on First Amendment rights might not know how to get involved. That’s why members of Light for Freedom want to provide information, raise awareness and build a network so people don’t feel isolated.

“Hopefully, they see the rally, see the website or Facebook, and then they get more involved, think about it when they’re voting, that kind of thing,” he said.

Get involved

Policy briefings – learn, engage, advocate
(Catholic Charities)
7– 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18
St. Thomas Becket in Eagan

7– 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20
St. William in Fridley

6:30– 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24
St. Olaf in Minneapolis

More information

Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women Legislative Day
9:30 a.m. – 2:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27
Hayden Building, 328 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul


Day on the Hill – annual policy briefing and lobby day
(Joint Religious Legislative Coalition)
8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Thursday, March 13


Reaching out to all people of good will

When Light for Freedom started last fall as a ministry at St. Paul parish, words of the Founding Fathers and current Catholic leaders inspired Suzanne Bartels to act.

She cites a June 24, 2013, National Catholic Register article in which Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said laypeople need to take the responsibility to lead in matters concerning threats to their faith.

“Bishops can counsel and teach,” he said, “but their role in practical political affairs like the fight for religious liberty can only be indirect and secondary. If laypeople don’t love their Catholic faith enough to struggle for it in the public square, nothing the bishops do will finally matter.”

Archbishop Chaput’s words had the same effect on fellow parishioner Patti Urick.

“This is something that has been transpiring for several years for most of us,” she said. “We’ve been aware of it, we just didn’t know what to do until we heard what the bishops had [wanted] us to do as laypeople. It kind of opened up our hearts.”

Urick is concerned about her grandchildren’s future to practice their faith without fear. She credits her Catholic faith for calling her out of her comfort zone to speak and act on behalf of religious liberty.

Learn more

Balk, who has a son in the Navy, was disturbed by the news of chaplains being forbidden to voluntarily celebrate Mass during the government shutdown last fall.

“When our brave young men and women are on the front lines for us, and they’re being denied these rights, it’s very troubling,” she said.

That issue and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate are among several that sparked the group’s formation. Suzanne Bartels points to the backlash Phil Robertson of the A&E show “Duck Dynasty” received from his comments about homosexuality, and recent laws redefining marriage and forbidding the “harboring” of undocumented immigrants. (Read more at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website)

“We’re being censored in the public square,” said parishioner Pat Moore. “It starts with religion, but it’s pervasive.”

Nearly 100 people attended Light for Freedom’s kickoff event last fall. Aside from the rally, the group reaches out to fellow parishioners and community members through parish bulletins, its website and Facebook page, biweekly meetings and a monthly rosary. Its patrons are St. Thomas More and Our Lady of Victory.

“These people here have taken an initiative . . . and they heard the call and wanted to respond,” said Father Tim Norris, pastor at the Church of St. Paul. “I am certainly here to guide them and support them. They can do so much more than I can do here.”

Light for Freedom’s Rally for Religious Liberty is from 2 to 3 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, at the State Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul.

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Category: Legislative Guide