Religious freedom rallies

Spread the love

They launched big, in 140 cities, coast to coast.

Organizers hope it was only the beginning. They are indeed resourceful.

Take Chicago, for example, where a long summer-like streak ended that morning with a heavy downpour and chilly temperatures and adverse conditions. The crowd swelled to about 2,500 anyway. The sound system went out moments before the noon start time. The message was amplified anyway.

Trouble is, it had to be amplified by bullhorn. And I was the first speaker. I detested having to shout into a bullhorn mouthpiece so the crowd could hear. But was slightly horrified to hear the back of the crowd calling ‘louder, we can’t hear,’ having to crank it up to a higher pitch and force every word as loudly as possible. That’s not the way to deliver a message, in my book.

So here’s what I tried to say.

On January 11th, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of upholding constitutionally protected religious liberty when the Justice Department tried to exert federal authority over how churches define ministries. Obama appointee Justice Elena Kagan joined a concurring opinion with Justice Samuel Alito saying “we have long recognized that the Religion Clauses protect a private sphere within which religious bodies are free to govern themselves in accordance with their own beliefs.” Courts, the opinion stated, must avoid inquiring into whether religious reasons given for internal governance decisions are merely “pretexts” for evading legal obligations.

About a week later, the Obama administration’s HHS mandate was issued, on Friday the 20th, requiring insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization and contraception, with virtually no religious exemption, thus exerting an audacious and sovereign end-run around even the courts. For the time being, anyway.

Okay, so with a blog I can expand a bit on the few minutes worth of remarks given under duress at a rally.

Earlier that same day, Friday January 20th, before the HHS mandate announcement, I was on the BBC program ‘World Have Your Say’ as part of a panel discussion on the SOPA and PIPA legislation in Congress to impose new restrictions on freedom of information. That panel included a young woman in Cairo, a man in Nairobi, a woman in Britain, a man in Washington and I was the US journalist in Chicago. Wikipedia had gone dark for a day to boycott government overreach, and many internet sites joined in some way to protest. Social media networks launched a campaign of activism so forceful, legislators started backing off the bill they had co-sponsored saying they heard the voice of the people and needed to reconsider legislation.

With the HHS mandate, government is denying conscience rights inherent in American tradition and fundamental to human rights everywhere. The right to conscientious objection has been nearly sacrosanct in American history, and now it’s being tried and tested to a new degree. More Americans oppose this move as government overreach than those who accept it as somehow an outgrowth of what’s colloquially known as ‘Obamacare.’

And btw…I cover enough news sources every day to know that’s not a pejorative as much as it is functional shorthand used by most media, to address those who try to discount criticism of the policies by criticising terminology. Some of the same people who have no problem with the term ‘Romneycare’ for GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s health care law in Massachusettes.

But I digress.

The morning of the rally, I heard the main organizer, Eric Scheidler, interviewed on television network news about the rallies across America, and the final question was ‘what do you want?’ The anchor said ‘there was an accommodation already made over this, so are you looking for another accommodation?’ I worked that into my brief remarks at the rally. There was no accommodation. It did not happen. The White House held a Friday press conference on February 10th announcing that there was, but the HHS mandate was entered into the public record that evening unchanged. It was a diversionary tactic, truth be told.

The Supreme Court hears arguments this week over the individual mandate in Obamacare, challenging the first time the federal government has required American citizens to purchase something by law. With the HHS mandate to purchase something, or provide insurance coverage for something, that violates consciences and religious beliefs, the court challenges are piling up and experts predict this mandate won’t stand judicial scrutiny.

Better to find a remedy before it gets to that point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *