The national outrage against President Barack Obama's controversial policy on contraceptives continues to gather force as religious leaders have united to express their outrage over the measure, with Saddleback Church's Rick Warren even saying jail time is preferable over supporting the bill.
The Obama administration's policy forces institutions affiliated with religious groups to provide coverage for birth control, sterilization and "abortifacients," all of which the Roman Catholic Church is opposed to.
The church's official position is that the ruling is unconstitutional and infringes on religious rights, but members of various denominations around the country have also stood up to oppose the bill.
Pastor Warren, who heads one of the largest Christian megachurches in the nation, with over 20,000 attendees on a weekly basis, delivered the invocation at Obama's inauguration ceremony in 2009, a choice that was criticized by liberal groups uncomfortable with the pastor's conservative views on abortion and gay marriage, CNN reported at the time.
The megapastor's support of Obama has waned, however, and he has been very vocal on Twitter against the new policy on contraception.
"I'm not a Catholic but I stand in 100% solidarity with my brothers & sisters to practice their belief against govt pressure," Warren, who is a Southern Baptist, posted on Feb. 7, declaring his firm stance on the matter.
He went on to describe that the matter was one of religious freedom, and church denominations should not be forced to go against their beliefs.
"America's FIRST Freedom is Religious Freedom! It's the FIRST LINE of the Bill of Rights! Nothing mattered more to Founders," he Tweeted on Feb. 9. Warren added a day later: "INDIVIDUALS, not just institutions, get religious freedom. U shouldnt be forced to pay for MY choices that violate YOUR belief."
The pastor went as far as to suggest that he is ready to face jail time for his opposition to the bill – and asked if others are ready to make the same sacrifice.
"I'd go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? Acts 5:29," he Tweeted on February 7, referencing a Bible passage in which followers of Jesus insist they must obey God rather than human authority.
The megapastor's comments came as the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, a rights advocacy organization, announced plans to hold a public prayer vigil event Thursday, Feb. 16 in front of the White House, despite fears of possible arrest.
The event is called "A Time to Stand," and the Rev. Mahoney released the following statement on Christian Newswire calling on all believers to unite and fight for the cause:
"The faith community can never be silent or indifferent when it comes to matters of justice, human rights and religious liberty. 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."
"We will be peaceful. We will be humble. We will be prayerful. But, we will stand!," the declaration read.