By Nancy Thorner -
This past Saturday, Oct. 20, on a beautiful, awe-inspiring sunny Fall day following two days of dreary weather, I heeded the call to attend Chicago's Rallying For Religious Freedom event. The excursion was organized by Lake County Right to Life president, Bonnie Quirke. Meeting the arranged bus at Marytown in Libertyville, I boarded the bus with 40 other men and woman who, although practicing Catholics, we were all of the same mind set. For those who are not acquainted with Marytown/National Religious Shrine of St. Maxmilian Kolbe, it is considered one of the nation's most beautiful religious sites.
Our first stop was Federal Plaza in Chicago. Strains of John Phillip Sousa music filled the Plaza as a crowd of all ages enthusiastically mingled, greeting one another, while proudly displaying signs distributed free-of-charge for passer-byes to see. Each of the three signs handed out had a different colored message:
Red: "STOP OBAMA'S HHS MANDATE"
Blue: "STAND UP FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM"
At the bottom of each sign was this email address at which information can be viewed about the rally: StandUpForReligiousFreedom.com
Eric Schiedler, Pro-Life Action League executive director, who has been serving as co-director of the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies this year, greeted the eager rally participants before we proceeded to walk, as a group, the several blocks from Federal Plaza to Daley Plaza. Mr. Schiedler explained how the start at Federal Plaza represented failed appeals made to the Federal government and its leaders. At Daley Plaza we would be making stands at local levels to encourage others to vote for candidates who uphold Christian values when returning home. Eric's message: We must pray for our country not only inside our churches and homes, but we must also act to encourage religious freedom by fighting for our values in the pubic square.
With obvious pleasure, Eric Schiedler announced results that were coming in of attendance levels at similar "Rallying for Religious Freedom " events that were happening all around this nation, all total 145 of them in 43 states, including seven in Illinois: Belleville, Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, Sterling, and Woodstock.
Schiedler then introduced the speakers. Many of the speaker touched upon The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate contained in the Patient and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, announced by the Obama administration in January and finalized in February. It requires nearly all employees to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans, regardless of any moral objections. Despite lawsuits filed by more than 30 businesses challenging the constitutionality of the mandate and appeals to the Obama administration, President Obama recently reaffirmed that his administration will not change its mandate stance.
With the election fast approaching, emphasized time and again by the speakers was the urgency to get the message out to voters throughout this nation to think seriously about where our country is headed when the federal government can define religious activity, accepting religion only when it remains within the confines of the four walls of a church on Sunday. There is some good news underway to report at The Billy Graham Evangelical Association. Shortly the Association will be publishing ads in key locations around the country with this strong statement to drive "value voters" to the polls. Watch for them:
The first of five guest rally speakers featured Rev. Francis J. Hoffman (Father"Rocky"), who serves as Executive Director of Relevant Radio. He is one of the hosts for "Go Ask Your Father," which debuted in July of 2009 on Relevant Radio. Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by John Paul II, Father "Rocky" also holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome.
Father Hoffman informed those gathered that he was here today as an American citizen. As such the First Amendment of our Constitution gives all of us freedom of speech and of religion. We have a right to speak out because standing here in Daley Plaza this is public property, and we built it! Evil was described as that which speaks of tolerance, but only when evil speaks. Evil was cited as having now gained the upper hand. As participants in the rally, we were directed to elect politicians who will uphold the laws of God and to advise others of the same.
Chris and Mary Anne Yep made news this year when Crain's Chicago Business called Triune Health Group, owned and managed by Chris and Mary Anne Yep, the "Best Workplace for Women" in Chicagoland. The Yeps also captured the headlines because they are suing the federal government over the HHS Mandate. Mary Ann Yep told how Triune Health Group provides a generous benefits package, including an outstanding health plan. Policies have also been implemented to accommodate the special needs of women, from single moms who may need time off to care for a sick child, to women needing more feasible work schedules to deal with breast cancer or other health problems.
Next featured was Angela Micell, a Ph.D. candidate at Louisiana State University in political philosophy who is currently working on her dissertation on the subject of freedom of conscience as a visiting fellow at the University of Notre Dame. Angela presented a powerful presentation of why abortion is bad for women, men and children. Hers was in direct contrast to Sandra Fluck's message!
Angelia related how the HHS mandate conveys that pregnancy is a problem, treating it as a "preventive" service. This pits a woman's progress and her talents against her fertility and speaks volumes about our culture. Societies accordingly travel in a downward spiral when dismissing pregnancy as just a problem to be solved through abortion, rather than that which evolves into the creation of human life with God's blessing. Never to be forgotten is that Freedom of Religion is enshrined in the first amendment of our Constitution? We have the freedom to live, act, organize and speak within the dictates of our own faith.
Following Angela was Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church since 1980. He is an award-winning author of more than twenty books, a celebrated international conference speaker, and the featured speaker on three radio programs: The Moody Church Hour, Songs in the Might, and Running to Win. www.moodychurch.org/staff-directory/erwin-w-lutzer/
Dr. Lutzer enlightened eager and in-tune listeners about the new kind of tolerance, comparing it to the so-called old tolerance. Philosopher Lock's understanding of tolerance (old) followed along with the idea that although I respect what you have to say and honor your right to say it, I also reserve my right to disagree while we both remain agreeable without rancor. The new type of tolerance leveled against Christians has become intolerable and must be stamped down. It demands that God be separated from government and science. If an individual steps over the line, prosecution will follow. New also to these times is the name calling against Christians. Derogatory words such a "bigot" and "homophobic" are being leveled against those not in sync with the views of others in order to denigrate, demoralize, humiliate, and discourage free and honest thinking. When this happens the targeted individuals are told not to take offense! This new kind of tolerance is really anti-tolerance!
The final rally speaker was Dr. Pam Smith, M.D., a past president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a former director of medical education in obstetrics and gynecology at Chicago's Mount Sinai Hospital. She received her medical degree from Yale University in 1979. (www.feministsforlife.org/taf/1997/fall/pamsmith.htm) In no uncertain terms Dr. Smith spoke of life as a biological fact beginning at conception. According to Dr. Smith, the reason why so few doctors provide abortion service, even though they are able to by law after the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973, conscience keeps them from destroying life in its most vulnerable form. The Hippocratic oath used to be taken by all doctor. (www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=20909) Left out of the AMA website is that doctors should not do chemically induced abortions. During the Clinton administration in the 90's there was a failed effort to force doctors to provide abortions. Now that the practice of chemical abortion is no longer frowned upon, the long-honored, biological-based "life begins at conception" terminology can conveniently be overlooked given that a chemical pregnancy termination never reaches the stage where a gestational sac can be seen on an ultrasound examination. Dr. Pam Smith's parting advise: "God-given life is of a higher authority than that of the state."
The rally concluded with a prayer led by Joe Scheidler, father of Eric, who himself is the father of six daughters. Eric views his position as Pro-Life Action League executive director as one of importance given his responsibility of caring for the women in his life.
Boarding the bus to return to Mary Town, I reflected upon what I had just experienced, praying that not only those who had attended the Chicago Rally -- estimate close to 1,700 -- but also that the thousands of individuals who had attended the 145 other same day rallies throughout the U.S. would heed the common rally messages: "You have a job to do, now go out and do it."
This nation is at a crossroads in its history. The November elections will decide whether this nation will offer future generations a country guided by our Constitution and where the Declaration of Independence offers to all "Life. Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," endowed by our Creator. We must do our part to fight for Religious Freedom, if we expect God to have mercy on our nation and smile upon our efforts as tasks well done in the service of our Lord. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html