A small group of pro-life advocates aiming to gain momentum for opposition to President Obama's mandate requiring that insurers provide birth control for free were arrested for demonstrating outside the White House Thursday. Shortly afterwards, the Priests for Life advocacy group said it is suing the current administration.
Father Denis Wilde, associate director of Priests for Life, promptly announced after the arrests that his organization filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration that seeks to permanently block the implementation of the mandate because it "imposes clear violations of conscience upon any American citizens who morally object to abortion and contraception."
Wilde was one of the six people representing several other pro-life groups who were arrested.
Jeff White, founder of Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, a California-based Christian group that trains advocates in pro-life apologetics and sidewalk counseling, told The Christian Post Friday that the demonstration and lawsuit are a much needed response to the mandate.
"I believe it is critical that we put a fast and clear response, a prophetic witness to President Obama that if he tries to mandate abortion inducing drugs into religious organizations' health care coverage that there is going to be a spirited response," White said.
"When the government starts to trample religious freedom it sets up a potential conflict between the church and the government that we are a part of," he added. "I think it's a very dangerous precedent to mandate something that is morally abhorrent."
White, who regularly prays for and counsels pregnant women on their way to abortion clinics, said the protest was "something that we will be building on toward the Supreme Court decision."
Legal battles at the federal and state level are anticipated after the Obama administration's decision that seeks to guarantee employees of church and ministry-affiliated institutions reproductive health coverage, including contraception, abortifacients and sterilization.
Along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, some Christian groups have voiced strong opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rule that requires universities, hospitals and nonprofits tied into a religious organization to include birth control without co-pays or premiums in their insurance plans.
Though Obama recently announced a modified version of the mandate, saying insurance companies must directly provide the services to employees for free if the employers have a religious objection to such services, opponents say the tweaked version does not go far enough.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the New York-based organization remains committed to battling the HHS mandate because it forces Americans to become morally entangled in practices they find objectionable.
"As an organization of Catholic clergy, as a corporation that employs 60 people of various religious backgrounds, and as a ministry whose very purpose is to protect and promote the pro-life teaching about the specific practices at issue in the HHS mandate, we are particularly well-positioned to fight against this intrusion of conscience," Pavone said.
The Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, was also among those arrested and cited for "Failure to obey a lawful order." They each paid a $100 fine and were released from custody, according to Priests for Life.
"The faith community can never be silent or indifferent when it comes to matters of justice, human rights and religious liberty," Mahoney told LifeNews recently. "We want to make it clear to President Obama and all public officials that we would rather spend time in a dark prison cell than be coerced into complying with an immoral and unjust government mandate."
Wilde echoed Mahoney's sentiment on Thursday.
"Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested," Wilde said. "We knew that was the risk when we gathered today, and we will do it again regardless of the risk. What people of faith - of every faith - need to do now is stand with us."
White said the issue of being arrested at the White House was secondary to the more important issue of religious freedom, which he feels is under attack by the Obama administration.
"I think it's time for us as Christians to take a stand if we are going to keep the founding principles of our country in place," White said.