Kathleen Gilbert

PHOTOS: ‘This is tyranny’: tens of thousands decry HHS mandate in 146 nationwide protests

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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Christine Dhanagom contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Another “Occupy” movement has just rocked the United States of America - but with a very different message.

Tens of thousands of men and women gathered in 146 protests on Friday, joining a grassroots effort that organizers say grew far beyond expectations. The rallies were held to protest the Obama administration mandate forcing religious universities, charities, and other groups to pay for abortifacient drugs and other birth control for students and employees.

But while the purpose of the Occupy protests last Fall was sometimes criticized as being somewhat hazy, the message of this event was clear. According to the Friday rallies, the HHS mandate is not a birth control issue, but a religious freedom issue, and a challenge to fight that won’t be ignored.

One fulcrum of the national protests was Washington, D.C., where about 1,500-2,000 gathered on a hot and sunny afternoon before the Health and Human Services building. Beneath the windows of HHS offices was heard the chanting of “We will not comply,” car horns honking in solidarity, and the rallying cries of several prominent speakers, including Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, conservative activist Star Parker, and Lila Rose of Live Action.

Hawkins put the issue in blunt terms, stating simply, “This is tyranny.”

“We are being told that our beliefs, our conscience, no longer matters,” said the pro-life youth leader. “What stops them from targeting someone else next?”

Click “like” if you want to end abortion!

In a speech that elicited a strong reaction from the crowd, Star Parker said that, “No more should my auto insurance cover your tune-up should my health insurance cover your sex life. Not your Viagra, not your condoms, not your birth control devices, not your abortions.”

Lila Rose highlighted the interests of abortion and contraception giant Planned Parenthood, the leading lobbyist in favor of the mandate, and criticized the progressive talking point that standing against the mandate was a “war on women.” “The very group that’s manipulating, victimizing women - you talk about a war on women, that’s the war on women,” said Rose, whose investigations have famously unveiled Planned Parenthood’s abetting of sex traffickers and child rapists.

Rallies in 145 other locations showed evidence of similar zeal across the United States.

Over 1,000 gathered under the shadow of George Washington’s statue on the steps of Federal Hall in New York, while hundreds more gathered from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., to Winston-Salem, NC, to Ann Arbor, Mich., to a rainy Cincinnati, Oh.

Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, one of the lead organizers of the event, estimated that there were around 1,500 people present in Chicago, despite the pouring rain. While the rain killed the rally’s public announcement system, Scheidler said, “We soldier on.”

2,200 were reported in St. Paul, Minnesota, where HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was visiting Friday.

A rally in the small town of Front Royal, Virginia - where the Occupy movement protest last year consisted of two - drew 200.

Local media reported 400 attendees in Livingston, “hundreds” in Grand Rapids, 500 in Allentown, 150 in Rochester, “hundreds” in Omaha, “hundreds” in Ann Arbor, “hundreds” in Toledo, “over 600” in Buffalo, “hundreds” in Goshen, and “hundreds” in Evansville.

The protest even appears to have gone international: a Youtube video posted on Facebook rally pages shows a demonstration of solidarity in Pakistan.

During a rally of about 100 in Germantown, Md., a noticeable number of drivers honked and waved in support - and participants lamented the fate of healthcare under the anti-Catholic effects of the mandate.

“If this HHS mandate goes through, the backbone of so much of the healthcare in the United States Is going to collapse because it’s Catholic,” Fr. Francis Martin, chaplain of the local Catholic lay group Mother of God Community, told LifeSiteNews.com.

Another Catholic priest, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of the Archdiocese of Washington said at the D.C. rally that the mandate is not only “worse than Roe v. Wade” because it will directly coerce people of faith, but that this coercion is part and parcel of the administration’s ultimate goal.

“The one thing this anti-freedom of religion mandate is not about, is contraception,” said the priest, who noted that the country is already “flooded” with birth control.

“If you attempt to nationalize 1/6 of our economy - the health care sector - you need to get rid of intermediate structures in society, the churches and other institutions stand as a buffer zone between the state and the citizen,” he said.

“Some people don’t like that.”

Carolina Agostino, a Virginia schoolteacher attending the D.C. rally, agreed that the mandate would mark a seismic shift for America.

“I cannot believe that this is happening in our country, the United States of America,” said Agostino, who emigrated to America from Uruguay as a teenager. “You can expect it from other countries maybe, but not the United States.”

Despite the spirit of opposition, the crowds were joyful and peaceful: the only police interference at the D.C. rally was to ask children not to climb the concrete pylons.

Some speakers even saw the administration’s “war on the Church,” for all the danger, in a positive light, and called to attention the long-overdue nature of the debate over how religious freedom and sexual morality intersect.

“The Church has been called out ot defend its position as a moral authority in this great country,” said Star Parker. “The bright side of this government overreach [is that it] gives us reason to have a conversation that we should have had way back in the 60s.”

Pat Mahoney, leader of the Christian Defense Coalition and emcee of the D.C. event assured his audience that the movement against the mandate would not end in tandem with the last of Friday’s rallies.

“This is just a starting line,” he said.

 

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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