WASHINGTON, D.C., October 1, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Over the weekend, 54 pro-life activists were arrested outside the White House. Their crime? Kneeling to pray.

Bryan Kemper, the founder of Stand True Pro-life Outreach, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that dozens of activists were breaking an ordinance that bans protesters from remaining stationary - allowing them to carry signs in front of the White House, but not to kneel in prayer - to draw attention to the Obama administration’s assault on religious liberty through the HHS mandate.

The event’s organizer Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, told LSN, “In the HHS mandate, we see the greatest assault on religious freedom the history of our nation…We sensed there had to be a response from the church.”

The arrests, which are scheduled to continue Tuesday at noon, were the first part of a strategy “to send a clear message to President Obama and our elected officials that we can never comply with an unjust or immoral government mandate, which forces us to violate our core convictions, and we would rather to go jail before we comply. We will not comply.”

The HHS mandate, requiring all employers to provide contraceptive and abortifacient coverage to their employees, is seen by many as a prelude to state-funded abortion, a violation of religious principle that is part of the Democratic Party platform and already a reality in many Western nations.

“I was here because I want my children to grow up in a country I love and be able to practice their faith, be able to have their religious freedom,” Kemper said. “And if I’m not willing to stand up for my own children, no one else is going to.”

Kemper was arrested both Saturday and Sunday, as he had written he would be. Some 22 people were arrested Saturday, with another 32 arrested on Sunday and more arrests taking place Monday at noon. Most of those arrested today were young people affiliated with Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.

One of them was Jayne White, a 21-year-old college student from California, who told LSN she was “motivated by the past history of the church.” She said those who had withstood state encroachment on their faith – like the Cristeros popularized in the film For Greater Glory –  showed the importance of resisting tyranny.

“If we back down now, we are going to be overrun,” White said. “It is a time to take action…It is time to be outwardly pro-life, to be outwardly Christian, to stand up for our religious freedoms. That’s why I’m out here today. ”

White said, “The D.C. police were very courteous. They even said, ‘Good job. Thanks for being out there’ – I got that from one officer. That was very encouraging. I know they were just doing their jobs.”

Others who were arrested originally had no intention of getting involved. Kemper told LifeSiteNews one woman who witnessed the arrests said, “I want to jump in there and get arrested with them.”

“There were several people who were in D.C. for other reasons who ended up joining us and getting arrested, because they were inspired by our willingness to say, ‘No, you can’t take away our religious freedom,’” Kemper said.

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The ongoing event was organized by ActsFive29, a religious freedom organization based on the Apostle Peter’s response to state authorities who told him not to preach the Gospel: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

The group held a Religious Freedom Rally adjacent to the White House on Sunday, where a crowd of hundreds heard from Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, Bryan Fischer of AFR Talk, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, Lila Rose of Live Action, and many others. Fr. Pavone then led a rosary service.

“We want a national conversation to begin today,” Rev. Mahoney told LifeSiteNews. “How do people of faith respond when the government begins to encroach into the private affairs of their lives and their families and their values and their beliefs? We felt here from Lafayette Park this movement would begin to spread nationally, and we’re looking to do a whole series of conferences and events.”

He said the group hopes religious freedom becomes a major issue in the 2012 election. “Our hope and prayer is that the president not be reelected, but a very real possibility exists that President Obama may get elected to a second term,” he said.

In addition to Kemper’s ministry, the CDC, and Survivors, ActsFive29 is sponsored by the American Family Association, Operation Rescue, Priests for Life, Pro-Life Action League, CEC for Life, and Foot Soldiers for Life.