If you see something, say something. Women and men have been signing letters in protest of the HHS abortion-inducing drug, contraception, sterilization, “preventative services” mandate that the Obama administration is insisting on — a mandate that violates the conscience rights of Catholics and others, and erodes the principle of religious liberty itself.
And tomorrow they will be taking the protest up a notch.
Eric Scheidler is a pro-life activist, with the Pro-Life Action League, who has helped organize a website coordinating Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies across the U.S. tomorrow.
Truly grassroots, the rallies for religious freedom Friday are not a top-down kinda thing, but gatherings of concerned Americans on a weekday, organized to different degrees in different locations, at state capitols around the country, as well as outside the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.
Find a location near you at standupforreligiousfreedom.com. Scheidler points to where to be tomorrow at noon and beyond:
Lopez: Where will you be tomorrow at noon?
Scheidler: I’ll be in Chicago, since the Pro-Life Action League is based in Chicago.
I might have been tempted to come out to the D.C. or New York rally, but I really believe in grassroots activism. My mission is to put people to work in their own communities defending the sanctity of life and putting their religious convictions into action.
Activism isn’t just something that goes on in D.C. or other power centers. Pro-life activism, religious activism has to happen everywhere.
I want to exemplify that, so I’ll be in Chicago’s federal plaza tomorrow.
Lopez: What’s your goal for Friday’s rallies?
Scheidler: Our goal is to show that there is widespread, growing opposition to Obama’s HHS Mandate, that this isn’t just a fight between President Obama and the Catholic bishops.
All across the United States, people of all faiths — or no faith at all — are seeing the HHS Mandate for what it is: the single greatest attack on religious freedom since our nation’s founding.
Tomorrow, the push-back begins.
We’ll be resetting the terms of this controversy, getting past the nonsense about a “war on women” or a “war on contraception” and the whole Sandra Fluke distraction.
Our goal is to fire up a grassroots army of Americans committed to overturning the HHS Mandate, first by educating their friends, neighbors and coworkers about how our cherished freedoms are at stake, and then by working for the legislative and electoral changes necessary to restore religious liberty.
Lopez: Why is the HHS Mandate something worth taking time out of your Friday to protest?
Scheidler: The HHS Mandate should be deeply offensive to all Americans for three reasons:
First, the HHS Mandate offends women by casting their fertility as a medical condition, and pregnancy as a kind of disease requiring free, mandated preventive care.
The HHS Mandate offends people of faith by demanding that religious employers ignore their moral convictions and their consciences by providing free contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans. And the HHS Mandate offends all Americans by trampling upon the First Amendment in drawing its narrow definition of what constitutes religious ministry. It is not for the federal government to declare as insufficiently religious activities which have always been understood to fall within the sphere of religious ministry, like feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and educating children.
Lopez: Why are you so insistent this debate is about religious freedom? Isn’t it about men like you telling women what to do?
Scheidler: Nobody’s telling women what to do. Women already have wide access to contraceptives if they want them. Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards has been bragging about how nearly all women are using contraceptives already.
The so-called “contraception access” crisis is completely manufactured. Contraceptives are already widely, cheaply available, and no one is proposing any kind of ban on contraception.
Contraception is inexpensive already — $5 to $15 a month for generic birth control pills, or free through federally funded clinics. So who can’t afford birth control?
Having “access” to something does not mean having it paid for by someone else — especially against their moral convictions.
But the HHS Mandate doesn’t stop with free contraceptives: It also requires employer health plans to provide drugs capable of inducing abortion during the early days of pregnancy.
We’ve been hearing a lot about an alleged “war on women” or “war on contraception,” but the reality is that this is a war on religious freedom.
Through the HHS Mandate, the Obama administration is not only trying to force employers to violate their moral convictions and consciences by providing health plans with free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs — they’re actually going so far as to assume the authority to define what constitutes religious ministry.
The HHS Mandate directly attacks the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by providing a “religious exemption” so narrow that it excludes a wide range of religious institutions on the basis that their ministries are not truly religious in character.
Activities which have always been understood to fall within the sphere of religious ministry — like feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless and educating the young — are not considered sufficiently religious by President Obama to qualify for his narrow “exemption.”
Lopez: How do you keep this non-/bi-partisan in an election year?
Scheidler: I welcome the cooperation of any elected official willing to fight the HHS Mandate, and in fact the rally program in Chicago includes Republican congressman Joe Walsh and democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski.
Religious freedom isn’t a partisan issue, though it certainly is a political one, thanks to Barack Obama.
And for that reason, the rally “marching orders” include a call for all who care about religious freedom to vote for candidates who will restore to religious institutions of every tradition the protections from government encroachment they are guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Lopez: What is next?
Scheidler: Friday’s rally is just the beginning. This Rally for Religious Freedom in over 120 American cities shows that opposition to the HHS Mandate is widespread and growing.
We’re calling on Congress to enact legislation to overturn the HHS Mandate and restore our cherished freedom of religion.
We’re encouraging all who recognize this assault on religious liberty for what it is to vote in the primary and general elections this year for candidates who oppose the HHS Mandate and who will promise to rescind it.
We’re showing our support for the U.S. Catholic Bishops and other religious leaders who are standing up against the HHS Mandate. They can count on us to carry this fight together to victory.