Religious Freedom Rally fills Fountain Square
June 10, 2012
By John Stegeman
Special to the Catholic Telegraph
Cincinnatians looking for a nice quiet lunch break on Fountain Square were treated to something much different Friday.
A large crowd of mostly Catholics attended a lunch time Rally for Religious Freedom to protest the Health and Human Services Mandate, which requires employers to provide free contraception and sterilization services in all health care insurance plans without a satisfactory religious exemption. Event organizers said 160 simultaneous rallies were occurring across the nation.
The event was headlined by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer and also included speeches from Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values and Bobbi Radeck of Concerned Women of Faith, as well as words from event organizer and rally captain Carl Brown.
Billed as a non-partisan, ecumenical event, the speeches focused on the first amendment right to religious freedom, and the importance of the democratic process.
“We are incredibly blessed to live in a nation whose founders included immigrants fleeing from persecution elsewhere, and seeking respect and dignity,” Binzer said. “It’s not a partisan issue, it’s an American issue. It’s a human rights and a Constitutional issue.”
The attendees showed a wide range of backgrounds, as the elderly, young, priests, nuns, professionals, laborers and curious bystanders were all in attendance.
One of the first to show up for Friday’s rally was Peggy Fugman, of Cincinnati. Wearing a sash with the word freedom written on it, and carrying a homemade sign, Fugman passed time before the rally holding her sign on a downtown street corner, despite having a broken foot. Most in attendance echoed her view that the supporting of religious freedom is essential.
“This rally is very important because it’s about freedom and the HHS mandate takes away religious freedom that is part of our Constitution’s first amendment,” she said. “If they take away one freedom, then we could head down a slippery slope.”
Ann Niehaus, of Landen, had never attended an issue rally before Friday, but the importance of standing up for religious freedom got her attention. Niehaus lamented that many people seem unwilling or unable to grasp the risk to religious freedom the mandate creates.
“They’re listening to the liberal media put their spin on it and they’re not looking at the bigger picture of how it is infringing on religious freedoms,“ she said. “The Catholic Church ministers to so many people through hospitals and education and those all are tied in with religious freedom. To say this only effects the Church is not looking at Christian ministries in other areas.”
Cathy Donabedian, of Loveland, repeated the call for citizens to act to defend religious freedom.
“A government that can force you to do things that are opposed to your conscience is totally out of control and is basically totalitarian,” Donabedian said. “It is only by our participation and speaking out anyway we can, that this will happen.”
And while some outside the rally might interpret the Catholic interest in this issue to be an imposing of religious values, Steve Broering of Northern Ky., said it is really the other way around.
“We feel like we’re being discriminated against as Catholics and other religions out there,” he said. “We’re just trying to defend our own rights.”
The attendance was difficult to estimate as those at the rally mingled with the lunch crowd, but the attendees seemed to top 500, and Brown estimated there were as many as 2,500.
Seeing so many people standing up for religious freedom at a rally he organized brought a smile to Brown’s face.
“It’s inspiring,” he said. “It gives me great hope for the future of our country.”