diocese coverOWENSBORO, KY (6/7/12) – Coinciding with the 223rd anniversary of the day James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights to the 1st Congress, the Rally for Religious Freedom will take place tomorrow, June 8 at Moreland Park in Owensboro. The event is a protest to elements of the Affordable Care Act, which will require many religious organizations to provide contraception and other services contrary to their beliefs to their employees. The rally precedes what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has designated the “Fortnight of Freedom,” the period between June 21 (Feast of Freedom of Religion martyrs St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher) and July 4 (Independence Day).

Special guests at the event will include:

Bishop William Medley
James Milliman, State Representative for US Senator Rand Paul
Crystal Shreiker, Silent No More
Dr. James Buckmaster, Henderson KY, Family Practice
KY Senator Joe Bowen
Marian Turley, Majesty Academy
Board Member Richard Nelson, Commonwealth Policy Center
Dr. Greg Faulls, Bellevue Baptist Church

Organizers want the public to know that “this rally, as well as opposition to the HHS Mandate, is not about denying women with health insurance access to preventive services, including contraception,” according to a press release. “The purpose of this rally, being held in at least 150 cities nationwide, is about the protection of our religious freedoms - for all peoples of all religions or no religion at all.”

Co-Rally Captain Birgit Jones is a member of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Gospel of Life Committee. “We address all of the pro-life issues from abortion to euthanasia to embryonic stem cell research, and we hold events such as the trip to Washington, DC for the March for Life . . . and now we have stepped up and sponsored this rally,” said Jones. The rally is not unique, as similar events are to be held in over 150 other cities around the nation, all at noon in their respective time zones.

“It is a concentrated effort across the nation,” said Jones, who noted that the committee is better prepared than they were for the last rally on March 23rd. “We only had two weeks to plan last time. We came into it quite late . . . We had over 300 attendees even though we had little time to plan ahead . . . we are very blessed to have a very Christian area that we live in. We expect a pretty nice crowd.”

Wanting to make a clear distinction with what they see as a misrepresentation of their position, rally organizers say that they do not wish to prevent women’s access to contraception. For them, it’s not a women’s freedom issue. “Women already have access to birth control pills for $4 at Wal Mart,” Jones added. “They have the Health Department and Planned Parenthood. This is about the issue of forcing a segment of citizenry to cave-in to something that is very counter to their belief system. The Catholic Church has always stood up for the sanctity of life.”

“We’re not trying to impose our morality onto anyone else. We’re simply asking for the freedom that the First Amendment gives us to live according to our morality—the moral laws we have always upheld. We shouldn’t be forced to participate in something that we feel is a repugnant disgrace on society. We as employers and charities do reach out to other faiths. We don’t have parameters that we use. In order to get the exemption, we would have to employ only Catholics and serve only Catholics, and that’s counter to the mission of the church . . . if you narrow the exemption to that extent, then no, we can’t condone that. You’re forcing us to do something that we know is morally wrong. It is totally unacceptable to force someone’s hand to act against their will . . . we were guaranteed those freedoms. We were guaranteed to be able to live according to our conscience, and that’s all we’re asking.”

When the US Supreme Court opines on the mandate (a ruling is expected in the coming weeks), and if the mandate or relevant portions of it are upheld, the church will have a decision to make. When asked if the diocese would condone open defiance of the mandate, Jones said, “Much like Reverend Martin Luther King, yes sir we will. We will be peaceful, but we will not go along—the bishops have said that. They have come out with statements saying exactly that. They will, just like Reverend Matin Luther King, they will encourage civil disobedience.

On the other side of the debate, the White House posted a blog that outlined the plan and attempted to dispel some rumors of their own:

"In recent days, there has been some confusion about how this policy affects religious institutions. We want to make sure you have the facts:

-Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.
-No individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception: The President and this Administration have previously and continue to express strong support for existing conscience protections. For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception.
-No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception: This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover. Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible. But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.
-Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy: Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.
-Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions. Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.
-Contraception is used by most women: According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.
-Contraception coverage reduces costs: While the monthly cost of contraception for women ranges from $30 to $50, insurers and experts agree that savings more than offset the cost. The National Business Group on Health estimated that it would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of potentially unintended and unhealthy pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity."

The rally begins tomorrow, June 8 at noon and will last one hour. The Owensboro Catholic High School Pep Band will be on hand to play upbeat, patriotic music to inspire the gathered. For more information on the event and its organizers, click here to view the rally press release, visit the USCCB website, the diocese website, or catholicsistas.com.

Casey Piscitelli
SurfKY News

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