.- Speakers and attendees at religious freedom rallies across the United States stressed that Americans are committed to defending their liberties from threats like the contraception mandate and that opposition to them is building.
Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told CNA that the issue “is not going to go away.”
“There are enough people in this country that are committed to the cause of religious freedom,” he said. “They understand that it’s the basis of all other freedoms, and they will not abandon this cause.”
He described the mandate as an attack on religious liberty that forces people to choose between their violating their faith and facing “government fines or federal condemnation.”
“That is simply not going to be something the American people will swallow,” he said.
Rep. Franks was one of several speakers at the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally in the nation’s capital on June 8.
The event was held as part of the second round of national protests against the federal contraception mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The first round of protests was held on March 23, attracting more than 63,000 participants. The June 8 event was expected to top this number, with rallies being held in 164 cities, an increase of nearly 20 locations.
Eric Scheidler, national co-director of the effort, said that the first rally “was a tremendous success,” offering encouragement to both those who attended and those who saw the event in the media.
Continuing the rallies helps “advance the coming judicial, legislative and electoral battles” against the mandate by “keeping the injustice before the public,” he said.
The Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally united tens of thousands of Americans concerned about a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has drawn widespread criticism for the threat that it poses to the religious freedom of those who object to it.
Speakers at the Washington, D.C. event emphasized that religious freedom is worth fighting for, and its advocates will not become discouraged.
Participants agreed, saying that they were seeing growing opposition at the grassroots level to the mandate.
“It’s just going to keep building up,” said Mary Castellano, a 16-year-old who attended the rally.
She explained that she was not able to attend the first rally in March, but was eager to attend the second one and would attend future rallies if given the chance.
“I’m here because the government has no right to take away what our country was founded on,” she said.
Religious freedom is “one of most basic” elements of American liberty, and it must be respected for all people, she stressed.
Amy Martinez echoed these sentiments, saying that it was “scary” to think about religious liberty being eroded in America.
As a 30-year-old woman, Martinez said she does not believe the Obama administration’s contraception rule serves her best interests.
“I don’t need the mandate,” she said.
Martinez thinks that Americans will continue speaking up to defend their right to live according to their faith.
“A lot of people are starting to wake up,” she said.