By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – Approximately 100 people attended a Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally June 8 in front of the Federal Building in downtown Davenport.
This was one of several rallies held throughout Iowa and the nation to inform people on how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate is structured and why it violates religious freedom.
Those attending the rally object to the law’s requirement that certain religious employers must provide insurance coverage that covers contraceptives, sterilization and drugs that can induce abortion. Church groups say it will force them to violate their conscience and teachings.
Organizer Jeanne Wonio of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport welcomed those in attendance during the lunch hour.
The rally opened with Father Jerry Logan, associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island, Ill., thanking God for the gifts of religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The priest asked God to bless the United States and for everyone to pray for those who inhibit freedoms.
Dr. Karla Polaschek, a pro-life physician in Illinois and medical director of the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, read a letter from women physicians who oppose the mandate. They do not see how providing women with free access to contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs is good for women’s health. “Birth control is not preventative medicine,” Dr. Polaschek said. “A child is not a disease and neither is pregnancy,” she read.
She listed possible side effects of artificial birth control, such as blood clots. Without the religious freedom to be excluded from the mandate, some physicians will leave the field based on their beliefs, she said.
Pastor Tony Liston of Adventure Christian Community in Davenport said this is not a battle between the government and Catholic Church. It is a fight between religion and the government. “We do not stand as Catholics or Lutherans or Presbyterians or Baptists … but as people of faith…. We have the right to protect religious practices,” he said.
Joe Hebert, an associate professor of political science at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, said it was disturbing that the government chooses to violate the right to religious freedom by penalizing those who do not agree with the mandate. Penalties will be imposed on those who do not comply. He said people need to be good citizens, making a contribution to the common good without restrictions.
Father Thom Hennen, director of vocations for the Diocese of Davenport, said religious beliefs need to be protected. The issue is not solely about contraceptives. “It’s about violating the beliefs of one’s faith — no matter what religion,” the priest said.
People need to believe and live what they pray. Those who oppose the mandate are simply trying to live within their religious beliefs. “We ask for the right to worship in the full sense of the word.”
Other speakers included Roger Mall, legislative director for Quad City Right to Life, and Maggie Schoonmaker, a fertility educator and homeschool mom.
Patriotic songs were sung throughout the rally.
Those attending the rally held signs for religious freedom on the sidewalk along the length of the courthouse.
This is the second rally that Wonio organized. The first was held March 23 in front of the Federal Building.