More than 350 people gathered on Courthouse Green on Saturday to support a Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally. They heard U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, label the Affordable Care Act as a violation of religious freedom.
“Our government is grounded in the belief that freedom begins with an individual's right to follow the guide of their own conscience,” Stutzman said.
He and other speakers said federal insurance mandates such as contraceptive and abortion coverage intrude upon personal beliefs, by forcing employers to fund services that violate their personal values.
“I believe our Founding Fathers got it right,” Stutzman said of the First Amendment. “They put this first because they understood that something so precious, so personal, so essential to our individuality needed to be front and center.”
“Because faith influences all aspects of our lives, we cannot put religious liberty on the shelf,” Stutzman said. “Individuals and institutions should be free to exercise their religious beliefs within their private spheres, as well as to engage publicly on the basis of religion. This includes the ability to practice one's faith at home, at our place of worship, and at work.”
In introducing his keynote message, Stutzman acknowledged others offering the perspectives of physicians, insurance providers, businesses and women.
“This gathering isn't about the politics of division,” Stutzman said. “This rally is not meant for a specific group, nor is it targeted at any particular denomination or focused on one particular gender. Catholics, Protestants, laymen, clergy, young and old, physicians, patients, men and women, boys and girls. This indeed is a diverse group standing up for religious freedom.”
Stutzman's wife, Christy, said the law treats pregnancy and fertility as illnesses instead of honoring and celebrating womanhood.
“This false concept that the gift of womanhood granted to me by God is a problem that needs to be solved in order to make me equal in society, or as a physical ailment that needs to be fixed with a pill or surgery is completely offensive and degrading,” she said. “The fact that God chose to make me a woman, able to conceive and give birth to another life, and have a part in the miracle that is motherhood, is not a mistake of evolution, is not a curse of nature, is not a hurdle to be overcome on my way to equality in society.”
She said politically correct American society does not give women the honor they receive elsewhere in Judeo-Christian circles. She added, “I refuse to accept the lie that women have a desire to live a promiscuous life, have no ties or committed relationships, care more about their own bodies than (they) do their own children, think of an unplanned child as a punishment, or think that they should do all of this without any thought of consequences for their actions.”
“Thank you for taking the time to be here to take a stand for freedom and against this administration's latest act of tyranny,” she said.
Dr. Tom McGovern said the Affordable Care Act violates his rights as a Catholic and an opponent of abortion. He is one of six owners of Fort Wayne Dermatology, whose more than 50 employees would be entitled to some services he opposes on religious grounds. He said he can sell his share and then work as an employee, or pay a tax. “For I am a victim of tolerance,” he said.
McGovern called on the audience to fight the federal mandate. “We have taken the moral high ground, and we must not relinquish it,” he said.
Mike Ripley, of Old National Insurance, said the health care law left unanswered questions. “Apparently 2,000 pages wasn't enough,” he said.
“A few provisions of the law were well received,” he said. Those include extending health care coverage for dependents to age 26, prohibiting prior exclusions in coverage, and emphasizing prevention of illness.
However, he said, the law gives the government the authority to exclude some medical procedures. “Americans liberties were, at best, a second consideration,” he said.
Mark Hager, the owner of Specialized Printing Products, said he and other entrepreneurs should be allowed to enjoy their success rather than be burdened with regulations.
He said President Obama's personal success story is not unique. “We all have an American story,” he said. Hager said his father, David, worked hard to buy a small barbershop. “It was the only one in St. Joe,” he said. “It was small and humble, but it was his.”
Americans have had to yield to the will of the administration, he said. “We will bend no more,” he said, as he appealed for a heavy vote turnout in November.
Pat Miller, a radio personality who described himself as “unashamedly pro-life,” drew from the success of sports legends to encourage the crowd to overcome obstacles as they seek political change.
Sean McBride, director of communications for the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese of the Catholic Church, said Right to Life organized Saturday's rally. McBride said it was the third rally of the campaign season. He said a fourth rally will be held in October.
McBride drew applause when he introduced the 90-minute program. His remark drew from the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A after its CEO said he is a firm backer of traditional marriage. It recently was the focus of a nationwide appreciation day after some politicians said they would prevent the chain from coming to their communities. “I don't know where you guys are going to lunch, but a chicken sandwich sounds pretty good to me,” McBride said.