June 15, 2012

Hundreds stand up for religious freedom—again

‘Fortnight for Freedom’ is June 21 to July 4

Maureen Devlin, a member of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Danville, displays a sign during the religious freedom rally on the grounds of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on June 8. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Maureen Devlin, a member of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Danville, displays a sign during the religious freedom rally on the grounds of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on June 8. (Photo by Mike Krokos) Click for a larger version.

By Mike Krokos

Maureen Devlin called it “religious persecution.”

Msgr. Joseph Schaedel said it is about the defense of “our very souls.”

They were among the estimated 800 people who participated in the second religious freedom rally on the grounds of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on June 8.

“I actually took the day off from work it was so important for me to be here today,” said Devlin, a member of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Danville.

“If we don’t stand up and start letting people know that we will not tolerate what’s going on, our rights will be eroded while we’re asleep at night,” she said. “It’s time for Catholics, especially, to double back, rethink our faith, and rethink why it’s important to live our faith, and how important it is that we have the freedom to do that.”

Right to Life of Indianapolis organized the city’s “Stand up for Religious Freedom” rally, which was repeated in nearly 160 cities across the country on the same day.

(Related: Bishop Coyne encourages parishes to participate in ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ from June 21 through July 4)

It was the second such gathering held nationwide during the past 11 weeks in response to the mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that nearly all employer health plans must provide free coverage for abortifacients, sterilizations and contraceptives even if they are in conscience opposed to these medicines or procedures.

“The reason we have to have a second rally is partly because, after our first rally [in March], the [Obama] administration unfortunately dug in their heels,” said Marc Tuttle, president of Right to Life of Indianapolis. “The threats against religious freedom are slowly escalating, and slowly percolating.”

Msgr. Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, said that while the outcry against the HHS mandate had sanctity of life issues at its forefront, “it’s about more than human life issues. This is about religious freedom, the primacy of conscience, ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ”

Msgr. Schaedel shared how Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., lived in Moscow before the Iron Curtain fell while working for NBC prior to becoming a priest.

While he enjoyed “freedom of worship”—attending Mass each Sunday there—there was no “freedom of religion” at the time, Msgr. Schaedel said.

“People were not free to practice their religion—follow their consciences—make free moral choices without unnecessary government interference,” Msgr. Schaedel said, “even though they could worship when or where or how they pleased. This is one of the word games coming out of Washington. Freedom of worship does not guarantee freedom of religion!”

As Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York noted, because of the narrowly defined “religious exemptions” laid out in the health care mandate, “Jesus Christ and his 12 Apostles would not qualify for a religious ministry exemption!” Msgr. Schaedel said.

“Make no mistake. Religious freedom is the issue,” Msgr. Schaedel added. “For years, we have fought the battle for the sanctity of human life. We march on Washington every year to protest the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court. We will continue to fight. And since God is on the side of human life, we will win. It’s just a matter of time—God’s time.”

The fight has moved beyond just defending human life, Msgr. Schaedel added. “We have moved into the defense of spiritual life—the core of our souls—our conscience before God! Our battle today is about spiritual lives. We are fighting to defend our very souls. Our cause today defends the right of every human person to religious freedom, to make decisions according to a

well-formed conscience.”

Sue Swayze, program director for the Indiana Family Institute, thanked President Barack Obama for bringing people together at religious freedom rallies across the country.

“He sure has awakened the pro-life sleeping giant in this country,” she said, “and maybe it took a little persecution for us to come out today.”

Swayze said our forefathers “had the vision to protect our free expression of religion. They also had the explicit understanding that Congress would pass no law that would stop our free expression of religion, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.”

Standing up against the mandate, she added, is not about limiting services to people.

“We’re talking about the overreach of government into our lives, into our protected religious values and practices,” Swayze said. “Government has no business defining the scope of religious ministry.”

(For more information on the U.S. bishops’ defense of conscience rights, log on to www.usccb.org/conscience.)

Local site Links: