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Rally focuses on religious freedom
Speakers say Obama mandate on birth control is awakening a sleeping giant
More than 600 people gathered downtown Friday to hear about a sleeping giant coming out of its slumber.
The giant, the crowd was told, is the growing number of people awakening to the feeling that their religious freedom is under attack.
And the one they blame is President Obama, the man behind a plan requiring religious groups to provide birth control coverage to their employees.
"I want to thank the president, President Obama, for awakening a sleeping giant," said the Rev. Arthur W. Ward of St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church in the Town of Tonawanda.
And Ward wasn't the only speaker to compare the large turnout Friday -- the crowd gathered outside the new federal courthouse and often spilled out into the streets -- to a figure waking up from a long winter's nap.
"I stand here representing the sleeping giant," said Pastor Craig McLeod of the Life Church in West Seneca. "This United States was established on the principle of religious freedom. And it's that freedom that supports all other freedoms."
The crowd, a mix of young and old, Catholic and non-Catholic, gathered as part of the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom, a one-day protest of Obama's new regulations on contraceptives.
Under the new health care law, birth control is considered preventive care and health insurance plans are required to cover that type of care.
When the president tried to impose the mandate on religious nonprofits serving the public, a backlash erupted. That's when Obama changed course and required insurers, not religious employers, to provide the coverage.
"The debate is about religious freedom, not access to contraceptives," Bishop Edward U. Kmiec said in a brief statement read to the crowd. "If we lose our religious freedom, what's next?"
The rally, one of about 140 protests across the country, drew people holding signs saying "Freedom" and "Stop the Mandate" and waving large yellow flags with the words, "Don't Tread on Me."
They also booed whenever speakers mentioned Obama or New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand by name. Schumer and Gillibrand support the president's new rules.
"We will show them that we are people who will die for what we believe in," said the Rev. Richard Poblocki of St. Josaphat's Catholic Church in Cheektowaga.
Speaker after speaker suggested their disagreement with Obama is not about affordable health care or women's access to contraceptives but rather about Constitutional rights.
...similar protests were going on across the country, most of them in front of federal buildings and Congressional offices.
"We're here in Buffalo today to tell you, 'you're not alone,'" said the head of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. "This is not going away. We will be back."
The protest, sponsored in part by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, ended with the singing of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and a suggestion from one speaker that the campaign to stop Obama's rules is just starting...
-excerpts from 3/24/2012 Buffalo News article by Phil Fairbanks