Last month I experienced one of the greatest privileges of my life: I acted as the emcee at the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally in San Francisco. It was one of nearly 150 rallies in cities all over the nation held on March 23, with a combined attendance of more than 60,000 people. Our particular rally’s audience totaled somewhere around 1,200.
I did this gig without pay. I bought my own plane ticket and paid for my own cab fare.
Because I could not turn down the opportunity to stand on a stage, with a microphone in my hand, and publicly state my support for religious freedom and my opposition to the HHS mandate that will require religious institutions to violate their deeply held beliefs.
This controversy has wrongly been described as being about access to contraception. It is not. Birth control is widely available, inexpensive for all and heavily subsidized to make it available without cost to low-income women. That will not change, and no one is asking for it to change.
What has changed is that, for the first time in U.S. history, the federal government is attempting to force religious institutions and other employers of faith to provide coverage for those contraceptives, as well as sterilization and abortion-causing medications, to their employees.
This, for those unfamiliar with U.S. history, is unprecedented. Our government has always been respectful of religious belief and has never mandated that any religious organization act in violation of those beliefs.
An ecumenical gathering
That is why, when I spoke at the rally, I was joined by Christians of many denominations, most of whom have absolutely no moral issues around contraception. That is why Colorado Christian University, a Protestant institution, was one of the first to file a lawsuit against the government over the mandate, even though they have no teaching against the use of birth control. But they understand that this is the first shot over the bow for religious liberty, and that if it is allowed to stand, others will follow in short order. As former governor Mike Huckabee, a Protestant, said, “We’re all Catholic now.”
It has been said that President Obama championed this mandate to solidify his support among women. That’s one reason that I, as a woman (and particularly as a single woman) felt so strongly that I had to stand up against this mandate. I am a woman. I am also a follower of Jesus Christ. The two are not contradictory, nor are they mutually exclusive. The God who made me a woman also gave me the great gift of being born in a nation where we can worship Him freely and order our lives in the way we believe He is calling us. That is important to me and to us as Americans.
My fear has been that there would be an initial uproar over this and then it would all die down over false promises of an “accommodation” that was never filed and wouldn’t have made much difference anyway. I hope that’s not the case. I know more rallies are planned as the election draws nearer. I know there will be more opportunities to speak up. The next nationwide rally will be June 8.
As singles, we often have more time and energy to devote to supporting causes and making a difference in the world. And as Catholics, we have a lot at stake in this issue.
I hope you’ll join me in making your voices heard.