More than 100 Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally protesters gathered on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn Friday to express opposition to the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate issued in January.
The date for the rally, according to a press release, was chosen to highlight the HHS mandate’s unconstitutional infringement of religious freedom, coming just weeks before the highly anticipated ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act from the U.S. Supreme Court, expected at the end of June.
The mandate, under President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs to employees.
Although the mandate includes a “religious exemption,” Friday’s protesters said the mandate is a violation of their religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“As a Christian, I completely oppose the abortion of unborn children,” protester Andrew Henry said. Henry, who graduated from IU in 2006, is currently a history teacher and staff member at ClearNote Church in Bloomington. “We’re made in the image of God, and a human life is sacred and should not be killed.”
The protest began with a rosary at 11:30 a.m. and the rally commencing at noon.
As speakers prayed into a microphone, the protesters bowed their heads in silence. From the elderly in wheelchairs to young children, attendees held cardboard signs that read, “your freedom is next,” “Stop Obama’s HHS mandate” and “stand up for your religious freedom.”
The HHS mandate, Henry said, requires religious institutions to directly fund contraceptive and abortion drugs, although these religious institutions specifically oppose such practices.
“This whole idea of the president mandating things to the American people is against our constitutional rights,” said Carole Canfield of ClearNote Church, who helped organize the demonstration. “That’s not the way this is set up, that is a dictatorship. He has no right to dictate these things, especially when they go against the Constitution.”
The Bloomington protest, which was organized by IU Jacobs School of Music student Martha Sliva, 18, was part of a nationwide movement. With the closest protest in Indianapolis, Sliva said she organized the event to inform the Bloomington and
“I think it was a really good show of people who aren’t going to take it, who are being treaded on by the government,” Sliva said. “There are so many people who just stopped and looked and saw people are not in the closet about this and we won’t take it. I mean, if you go to any other country, they can’t believe what America is letting slide by.”
In more than 150 cities throughout the nation, more than 10,000 people rallied against the HHS mandate during the second Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally. The first rally was in March.
Friday was also the 223rd anniversary of the day James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights to the first Congress, including what would later become the
“If Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional, we must insure that religious freedom will be protected in subsequent health care legislation,” Stand Up Rally national co-director Monica Miller said in the release.
“But if Obamacare is not struck down, we’ll be sending the federal authorities a clear message that the faith based institutions and private businesses affected by the HHS mandate simply will not comply with it.”
According to Miller, the federal government does not have the right to define “the scope of religious ministry,” referring to the “religious exemption” in the mandate that does not include several religious institutions, including Catholic schools and hospitals.
“We have an obligation as citizens to do everything in our power, from praying, talking to our friends and family, writing letters to our representatives in the city, county, state, the governor, Congress, anybody we can to oppose this because it is evil,” Henry said.
“When the laws of a nation are evil, the nation will not prosper. The nation will suffer and eventually die.”