In more than 120 cities nationwide, activists held "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rallies yesterday to protest the Obama administration's mandate that requires nearly all employers to provide insurance coverage that includes free birth control for workers.
The Associated Press visited a rally held in Philadelphia and interviewed the religious protesters and the counter-protesters (see video embedded below).
John O'Brien, a Catholic, told the AP that "If we have not the guarantee of the First Amendment, the right to practice our religion, we can be denied every other right that's available." Peggy Riley added, "Well, I am a Catholic and they're telling us we have no right to practice our religion freely. I don't want that or any other of our Constitutional rights taken away. If it starts with religious freedom, it can spread to other freedoms."
Father Paul Schenck of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament told reporters that his right to freely practice religion comes from God, not the government. Referring to the Constitutional right to religious freedom, he said, "We cannot give one inch, one centimeter or millimeter of that free exercise clause. We have to defend and protect the rights of citizens to religious liberty and freedom of conscience."
The Philadelphia rally had counter-protesters. Caryn Hunt, former president of Philadelphia NOW, did not understand the religious freedom protests. "I just don't exactly understand why anyone would think that an employer or an insurer's conscience should substitute for their own medical decisions," she said. "This is definitely a women's rights issue. This is a women's issue disguised as a religious issue."