Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom

Hundreds of people in the Archdiocese of Denver attended a prayer rally for religious freedom on June 22, standing up for the right to serve God in their public and private lives.

"We're here as Christian Catholics, we want to unite together and represent Jesus Christ and everything that he taught us; to be free to love God, worship God and obey God," local Maria Herrera told CNA.

"Prayer in the Square: a Rally for our First Freedoms" was held by the Archdiocese of Denver at the Colorado state capitol.

The event was part of the national Fortnight for Freedom called for by the U.S. Catholic bishops, with participation from members of various faith backgrounds.

Currently in its second year, the fortnight is a two-week period of prayer, education and action devoted to the protection of religious liberty in the United States and around the world.

The fortnight began on June 21, the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, two martyrs who accepted death rather than violating their consciences. It ends on July 4, Independence Day.

The two-week religious liberty campaign was established in response to the growing number of threats to religious freedom in the U.S. Among the most prominent of these threats is the HHS mandate that requires employers to facilitate health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions. The mandate will take effect for many objecting religious employers beginning in August.

Other contemporary religious freedom concerns include a lack of conscience protections for health care workers, state laws that may punish Christian acts of charity towards undocumented immigrants and a redefinition of marriage forcing Catholics to violate their consciences in the realms of adoption, foster care and humanitarian services.

People at the rally said that they are worried about the implications of these laws and policies.

"I think we're entering into a very distressing period in our history," said attendee Troy Freedman, "where right under people's noses, little by little, incrementally, your freedoms are stripped away."

Joann Napierkowski said that her presence at the rally was a small thing that she could do in support of religious freedom.

"I'm humbled by these big things that people do, and if everyone can just show up and do what they can, it will let God work," she said. "It's His work, we just have to be His soldiers and He gives the victory."

The rally drew priests, including Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, as well as laity and religious men and women.

"I think that religious liberty is being threatened right now in many, many areas, all the truths that we hold as precious, as sacred," said Lara Montoya, a consecrated laywoman in the Marian Community of Reconciliation.

"And so we need to come more and just defend what is ours, and what will allow us to live fully in freedom and love God. But not only love Him in our words, but in our actions."

Other individuals present said they came to the rally to "stand as a witness" for the truths of the Church and the importance of religious freedom.

"It's good to take part in the political process," said participant Alex Highe, "because if we don't take part and raise our objections, then we can't really complain when we don't have these freedoms anymore."

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