‘The attack on religious liberty is real!’ So began Dr. Monica Miller as she opened the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally on October 20th, to approximately 650 supporters crowded onto the front lawn of Dearborn City Hall in Michigan. The rally was one of 127 rallies that took place across the country at noon on Saturday.
The Metro Detroit protest of the federal Health and Human Services Mandate that forces business owners and religious institutions to provide services that violate their consciences, is the third such rally since March of 2012.
‘Today’, Miller said, ‘we are hearing words we have never heard before. Bishops are contemplating having to go to jail over the HHS Mandate!’
Attorney General Bill Schuette sent a letter to the assembly: ‘This is a defining moment for our country. Religious liberty is America’s first freedom. Any rule, regulation, or law that forces faith-based institutions to provide services that violate their free exercise of religion is a flat-out violation of the First Amendment,’ Schuette wrote. ‘Michigan has led the charge and we will stand firm defending our Constitution!’
Clearly identifying the Mandate as an attack on religious freedom and an unprecedented attack on the Constitutional rights of all Americans, ten guest speakers, including Detroit Archbishop Alan Vigneron, asked people to be courageous in standing up to the federal government. Calling the Mandate a violation and saying that ‘faithful Catholics in health care and business are being trampled on,’ the Archbishop called the rally a public call for our leaders to recognize religious freedom. Declared the Archbishop, ‘The government does not have the right to redefine religion or entangle themselves in the affairs of religion!’
Father Kenneth Tanner, an Anglican priest from Rochester Hills, said the Mandate was unconstitutional and urged people to speak out against it. ‘We must respectfully refuse to obey the law!’ he said.
Supporting the message with scripture, speaker Robert Fastiggi, a teacher at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, recalled the book of Acts Chapter 5. ‘When the apostles were brought in before the officers and court officials, and questioned about teaching in the Name of Jesus, they replied, ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’ he read.
Archbishop Vigneron added, ‘I am personally party to a lawsuit against the HHS Mandate. We all need to be courageous in order to stand up for what is true. We have a right to our conscience and to live our life in integrity and enjoy religious freedom.’
Archbishop Vigneron called the government Mandate, ‘heinous in its desire to force us to act against our conscience, and harness us to be agents of an agenda that is contrary to our beliefs! The Mandate is turning me into a hypocrite and that is intolerable!’ he said. ‘We must stop it! We must protest!’
Speaker Neran Karmo of the Chaldean Church talked about America as the beacon that leads others to freedom. Where she lived in Iraq, she was treated as ‘second class as a woman and as a Christian’. But, ‘in America’, she said, ‘my hopes and dreams came true to preach and evangelize.’
‘To care and stand for freedom is an act of charity,’ said Karmo. ‘America is a beautiful place where we can practice religion freely. But we are on a slippery slope’, she said, ‘if we let our freedom go.’
‘The First Amendment,’ said Robert Muise, Senior Counsel of the American Freedom Law Center, ‘separates us from the rest of the world.’ An ex-Marine of 13 years, Muise said he ‘swore an oath to protect the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic’. “We must be more committed to protecting our freedom than our enemies are to destroying them.’
Archbishop Vigneron affirmed, ‘We need to return to the way we have been living for the past 200 years…it is good for our nation!’