Chesterton Tribune

Porter County hosts NWI rally against birth control mandate

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By Tribune Staff

and the Associated Press

Demonstrators gathered in Valparaiso, on Capitol Hill and more than 100 locations Friday to protest the Obama administration’s policy to require private health insurance plans to cover contraception as a violation of religious freedom.

The issue has united multiple faiths, with evangelical, Orthodox Jewish, Roman Catholic and Mormon leaders recently forming networks in every state dedicated to promoting religious liberty, starting with their opposition to the mandate.

Last year, an advisory panel from the Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government, recommended including birth control on the list of covered services for women. But many faith and political leaders argued that the mandate’s exception for religious groups was too narrow.

In response, Obama offered to soften the rule so that insurers would pay for birth control instead of religious groups. Roman Catholic bishops and others have said that the accommodation, which is still under discussion, doesn’t go far enough to protect religious freedom. Lawsuits have been filed in at least eight states.

In Washington, former GOP presidential hopeful and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said the heart of the issue was the protection of religious freedom.

Porter County Rally

Five hundred gathered at the Northwest Indiana Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally at the Porter County Courthouse, organizers Alex and Paulette Rodriguez of Chesterton said in a press release today.

Rally speaker Steve Sluder, Pastor of the Church of God in Griffith said “We strongly oppose any attempt by the federal government to limit, restrict or impede us in our efforts to fulfill the call to ministry, and practice of our faith.”

Valparaiso University Law Professor Richard Stith stated “Precisely because our nation is ever more polarized, we need conscience protection more than ever. The only way we will be able to endure our ever deeper disagreements is for the government to cease to require participation in acts that violate the consciences of those who disagree with it.”

Pastor Rick Jones of Pines Bible Church in Michigan City emphasized it should not be up to the government to define “what it means to exercise our religion.”

Father Mens, Pastor of St. Mary Catholic Parish in Griffith read a statement provided by Gary Diocese Bishop Dale Melczek in which the Bishop said “We ask nothing more than that our God-given right to religious liberty be respected and nothing less than that the Constitution and laws of the United States, which recognize that right, be respected.”

Assoc. Pastor Voegtlin of Fairhaven Baptist in Chesterton also provided a statement to be read.

Indianapolis Rally

In Indianapolis, about 300 activists gathered on the south lawn of the Statehouse carrying signs reading “Stop Obama’s HHS Mandate!” and “Stand up for Religious Freedom!” and cheered speakers from groups including Indiana Right to Life, Americans for Prosperity and the Catholic Church.

Monsignor Joe Schaedel, pastor at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Indianapolis, told the crowd that talk of exemptions from the administration are hollow.

“Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles couldn’t get an exemption,” Schaedel said. “Make no mistake: Religious freedom is the issue!”

Planned Parenthood Response

But Jennifer Miller, a vice president at Planned Parenthood in Trenton, said the rallies were being held by extremist groups that have a long history of attacking women’s health.

“Simply put, anti-women’s health groups want to take a huge step backward for women’s health,” Miller wrote in an email. “If they had their way, more women would be uninsured, medical discrimination against women would be legal again, and women would once again be forced to pay more for health care and get less for their health care dollars than men.”


Posted 6/13/2012