(Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
Religious institutions concerned about the HHS mandate that forces them to provide insurance that includes coverage for contraceptives to employees are holding a mass rally on Oct. 20 across several U.S. cities to fight for religious freedom.
The "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rallies will take place in over 140 cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Miami, Kansas City, and Minneapolis.
The nationwide campaign, sponsored by the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Coalition, announced in a press release this will be the third such national rally this year – the previous ones in March and June reportedly drew over 125,000 participants nationally.
Not coincidentally, the October rally comes less than three weeks before the presidential elections on Nov. 6. Catholic institutions around the country have been protesting against the Obamacare provision, which mandates that certain preventive services be provided free of co-pays in employer health plans. Nearly two dozen Christian organizations have filed lawsuits against the HHS mandate since it was introduced earlier this year.
The issue came up in the Oct. 11 vice-presidential debate between VP Joe Biden and GOP candidate Paul Ryan, where Biden claimed that there is no assault on religious liberties in the country and that no Catholic institution will have to pay directly for contraceptives.
"Let me make it absolutely clear: No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide," Biden said, who along with Ryan, is Roman Catholic.
But Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League and one of the co-directors of the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies, has rejected those claims, and in a statement shared with The Christian Post said:
"I was stunned when I heard Vice President Biden claim that religious institutions like Catholic Charities don't have to provide contraceptive coverage in their health plans."
He continued: "I don't know whether the vice president was outright lying or if he really doesn't understand the HHS mandate, but the fact is that employers are being forced to violate their consciences – and the doctrines of their faith – by providing contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans. At Saturday's rallies, we will be calling on the American people to vote for candidates committed to overturning the HHS mandate and restoring religious liberty in America."
"Inexpensive contraception is already widely available in this country," added Monica Miller, executive director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and also a co-director of the Oct. 20 event. "There was no need to force religious employers to provide it in their health plans – but apparently the Obama administration does see a need to deny that's what's happening. They know that Americans cherish their religious freedoms, and Biden's false statements in last week's debate show they're worried how this controversy will impact the election. They should be."
More information about the nationwide rallies can be found at the Stand Up for Religious Freedom website: http://standupforreligiousfreedom.com.