March 30, 2012
Several weeks ago I
started seeing advertisements on pro-life websites about nationwide rallies
for religious freedom to be held March 23. These rallies, sponsored by an ad
hoc coalition of pro-life and religious groups, were organized to protest
President Obama’s mandate that all health insurance plans cover (without
co-pay or deductible) female sterilization and contraceptives, including
those that can cause abortions.
I checked out the coalition’s
www.standforreligiousfreedom.com and noticed that rallies were
being planned in Lincoln and Omaha. I immediately e-mailed the organizers to
find out who was organizing these two Nebraska rallies. Unfortunately, I
didn’t receive a response for quite some time, and then only a generic one
with no names of the local organizers. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks
prior to last Friday’s rally that I found out that Nebraskans United for
Life and the Respect Life Apostolate of the Omaha Archdiocese were
organizing the Omaha rally. And I didn’t find out until about a week before
the rally that there was no local organizer in Lincoln.
Despite this lack of communication
and organization by the national coalition, the groups in Omaha put
together, on very short notice, a highly professional and successful rally
outside the Federal Building in downtown Omaha. The rally began with the
singing of "God Bless America," followed by Archbishop George Lucas who led
the opening prayer and provided introductory remarks about the serious
threat the president’s mandate poses to religious freedom.
Next up was Edward A. Morse, a
professor of law at Creighton University College of Law. Professor Morse
spoke about the time-honored tradition of religious freedom and
conscientious objection in the United States. I was next on the program and
provided some background on the president’s mandate, explaining what it is
and is not.
Father John Brancich, FSSP, pastor
of Immaculate Conception Church in Omaha, gave an informative speech on St.
Thomas More and the role of the conscience. Dr. Lloyd Pierre from Sancta
Familia Medical Apostolate followed with a physician’s perspective on the
medical provider/patient relationship and how this and other health care
mandates will impact that relationship.
Next up was a powerful pair of
priests: Father James Buckley, pastor of St. Patrick Church, and Father
Michael Voithofer, parochial vicar at St. Robert Bellarmine Church, both
from Omaha. Father Buckley provided a call to action with numerous
suggestions for prayer, fasting and action. Father Voithofer gave an
inspirational and rousing close to the presentations with the important
reminder that Jesus Christ is victor!
The rally concluded with a prayer
by Denny Hartford from Vital Signs Ministries. Denny and his wife Claire,
who are evangelical Christians, were among numerous Protestants in
attendance to show their support for religious freedom. Estimates put
attendance at anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000, a very impressive turnout for
limited planning and promotion.
The Lincoln event, because no
organizer was identified in time to plan a rally was more of a "Life
Chain-style" demonstration. But despite no real organization or leader and
only last-minute promotion, around 500 people showed up and held signs
surrounding the Federal Building in Lincoln.
The relative success of both
events, given the short amount of time for planning and promotion, is
extraordinary. It demonstrates the passion and energy that exists locally
and nationally toward opposing the Obama Administration’s unprecedented and
reckless trampling of religious freedom.
The Catholic Bishops, and the offices like mine that
represent them, will be tireless in defending religious freedom and in
equipping Catholic parishes and individuals to participate in this epic
battle. One excellent resource that currently exists is the U.S. Bishops’
website at www.usccb.org/conscience.
From this page one can link to another page that provides many excellent
prayer, liturgical and educational materials. May God bless and guide us to
be courageous, persistent and faithful.
You can contact Greg at The
Nebraska Catholic Conference, 215 Centennial Mall South Suite 310, Lincoln,
NE 68508; firstname.lastname@example.org