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Protesters join national rally opposing federal health care mandate


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By Mark Keierleber



More than 100 Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally protesters gathered on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn Friday afternoon to express opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate issued in January.

The date for the Stand Up Rally, according to a press release, was chosen to highlight the HHS mandate’s unconstitutional infringement of religious freedom, coming just weeks before the highly anticipated ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act from the U.S. Supreme Court, expected at the end of June.

The mandate, under President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs to employees.

Although the mandate includes a “religious exemption,” Friday afternoon’s protesters said the mandate is a violation of their religious freedom, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“As a Christian, I completely oppose the abortion of unborn children,” said Andrew Henry. Henry, who graduated from IU in 2006, is currently a history teacher and staff member at ClearNote Church in Bloomington.

“We’re made in the image of God and a human life is sacred and should not be killed.”

The mandate, Henry said, requires religious institutions to directly fund contraceptive and abortion drugs, although these religious institutions specifically oppose such practices.

Bloomington’s protest, which was organized by IU Jacobs School of Music student Martha Sliva, 18, was part of a nationwide movement Friday.

In more than 150 cities, from New York City to San Francisco, about 10,000 Americans rallied against the HHS mandate during the second Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally. The first rally was held in March.

Friday was also the 223rd anniversary of the day James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights to the first Congress, including what would later become the First Amendment.

“If Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional, we must insure that religious freedom will be protected in subsequent health care legislation,” Stand Up Rally national co-director Monica Miller said in the release.

“But if Obamacare is not struck down, we’ll be sending the federal authorities a clear message that the faith based institutions and private businesses affected by the HHS mandate simply will not comply with it.”

According to Miller, the federal government does not have the right to define “the scope of religious ministry,” referring to the “religious exemption” in the mandate that does not include several religious institutions, including Catholic schools and hospitals.

“We have an obligation as citizens to do everything in our power, from praying, talking to our friends and family, writing letters to our representatives in the city, county, state, the governor, congress, anybody we can to oppose this because it is evil,” Henry said.

“When the laws of a nation are evil, the nation will not prosper, the nation will suffer and eventually die.”

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Father Elias Mills of Bloomington's Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center reads a prayer during Friday afternoon's Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn. During the rally, protesters expressed opposition to the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs to employees. Mark Keierleber Buy Photos
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Protesters listen as Father Elias Mills of Bloomington's Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center reads a prayer during Friday afternoon'ss Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn. During the rally, protesters expressed opposition to the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs to employees. Mark Keierleber Buy Photos

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