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Anti-Obama Prayer Rally Friday

The prayer rally, from noon - 3 p.m., is part of the Stand Up for Religious Freedom coalition. It is a protest of a Health and Human Services mandate regarding birth control coverage.

The national political controversy over whether contraceptive coverage should be an insurance mandate is now a hot debate locally, with a high-profile prayer rally planned Friday in St. Petersburg. 

From noon - 3 p.m., the prayer rally will be staged at 4th Street North and 22nd Avenue North. In addition, the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg wrote a protest letter in February to voice oppotion to the mandate.

The organized opposition, largely by religious groups, is to President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services Affordable Care Act. The act requires insurers to cover birth control for women, a mandate sparking partisan debate.

The most visible opposition locally will be Friday's prayer rally along 4th Street North, a busy commercial highway in St. Petersburg.

According to a news release, several St Petersburg residents are joining this effort, in alliance with participants from 100 other cities for the March 23 Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally.

"This prayer and witness rally is intended to peacefully alert the public to the strange manipulations of the HHS mandate," said Michael Brennan of the Coalition in Defense of Church Teaching. "We hope and have asked non Catholics to join us in scripture reading.  

"We intend to draw attention to the injustice of the federal government’s trivializing the conscience of American citizens as we emphasize the national opposition to the HHS Mandate—a ruling that is shocking to millions of Americans.  

"Never before have American Catholic Bishops been intimidated to put their (approval) on acts they have been consecrated by God to disapprove," Brennan added. "In this episode we have witnessed the tactics of Eastern Europe under communism. This sort of government intrusion must be stopped.” 

The nationwide Stand Up for Religious Freedom coalition calls upon all Americans to oppose the mandate for the following reasons:

"We protest the federal government's definition of what constitutes a religious institution and the mission of religious institutions through the narrowly constructed “exemption” to the HHS Mandate. Not only is this definition false, but the federal government has no authority to make it.

We protest that religious institutions (even under Obama’s so-called “accommodation”) are still forced to facilitate contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs through insurance companies that are mandated to provide them.

We protest the Mandate for forcing all businesses -- not just religious institutions -- to provide coverage of contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates the employer’s own moral position on these matters."

The national pushback against the mandate is countered by an equally strong argument for insurance companies to cover birth control. 

In a statement released on March 16, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards issued a statement:

"As women’s health opponents continue their unprecedented assault on access to basic health care, today, the Obama administration reaffirmed its commitment women’s health.  

"... the Obama administration is fulfilling its promise that women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays and no additional hurdles, no matter where they work.

"For many women, especially college students, birth control is not only a health care issue, it is a financial issue. Covering birth control with no co-pays means college students will not have to choose between paying for tuition and books, or paying for basic health care like birth control."

On March 20, Richards said the fight against contraceptives being covered by health insurance companies is a war on women. 

“Unfortunately, anti-women’s health politicians want to take away these health care benefits, and repeal ACA.  If they had their way, more women would be uninsured, medical discrimination against women would be legal again, and women would once again be forced to pay more for health care and get less for their money than men."

Locally, the issue has also caused quite a stir.

On Feb. 4, Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese St. Petersburg wrote a letter voicing his and the church's displeasure with Catholic institutions providing contraceptive services.

"This is indeed the worst assault on religious freedom by the Federal government in a long time," Lynch wrote. "Those of you who have known and watched me over the 16 years it has been my privilege to be your bishop know that I have until now refrained from engaging in political discourse. But this is now a moral issue and the timing by the President leaves me no option but to inform you of what is happening, which I believe to be an assault on the sacred."

, who runs saintpetersblog.com, wrote that type of politicking within the Catholic Church makes him want to leave the church. 

"When I leave the Catholic Church, and increasingly I believe that departure is imminent, it will be because of the actions of church leaders like Robert Lynch, head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg," wrote Schorsch in . 

"I wonder why I am hearing so much from my Church now when I heard so little from it during the child-abuse scandals that rocked so many Catholics' faith?," Schorsch continued. "With the Church's house still in disorder because of that scandal, I must also wonder why Bishop Lynch is wading so deep into public affairs."

Susan B. Anthony March 24, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Sorry Jack, this isn't a reply to you ~ this is a reply to my new BBF, Sfinn,,, Ms. Sfinn ~ your arrogance, ignorance, lack of humility and lack of grace and wisdom can be understandable under the circumstances. However, for someone on a comment section to post the comments about me [when we haven't even met nor have I given you any information about myself] is appalling. My suggestion for volunteering was not about your litany of 'do good acts', such as using your $$$ to buy gift cards for the less fortunate or driving senior citizens to their doctor appointments, or dropping off food at the homless center for teenagers ~ I had more in mind of you actually volunteering your TIME a few hours a week w/perhaps "Planned Parenthood" to understand who goes there and how they function before you 'bad mouth' this organization, OR maybe working w/abused women and children, OR homeless children...this doesn't require an easy charity gift of $$$ but it does help one grow and understand footsteps others take in this journey of life.... And darlin', there are hundred of people who have been on their own at a young age and have worked full time and finished their college degrees. Gosh, some have even had to raise three children alone due to a WAR; and gosh some have been diagnosed w/cancer and lost all insurance, and gosh some have helped their children go to college ~ YOU see my dear, I am not young nor have I lacked living life.I taught in a Catholic inner city school.
Kathleen McGee March 24, 2012 at 11:50 PM
So you think this isn't about contraception. You're right, it's not. What it is about is allowing the Catholic Church to take away the right to all their employees to make their own decisions concerning their religious rights and health care decisions. So you think we need to protect the tissue paper religious rights of the Catholic bishops. Aren't they the same guys who are protecting all the priests and bishops who have been raping our young boys for so many years? Are we to view them as the authority we need to listen to make moral decisions? Anyone who thinks they have the moral rights to tell anyone in this country how to live is as immoral as they are. If churches cannot abide by the same laws in this country as other social service organizations, they need to get out of the business. They do not need protected. We need protection from them and anyone who stands with them. It is a moral issue - a moral issue that every family in this country needs to stand up against. It's every family's right to make their own religious and health care decision - not you, not the priest, not the bishops. We live in a democracy; we do not live in a theocracy.
v thompson March 25, 2012 at 02:03 AM
You could look at it that the Government is taking care of it's citizens. Where as the Church just wants to control them. You could also look at it that if the Church doesn't want to do this, they can get out of the insurance business. No one is being asked to violate their morals,if you think this is wrong, don't use the benefit. Maybe it's time for the church to move away from its archaic ideas and move into this century,like most of it's members have. It would be a lot easier to lead if they weren't so far behind. I am Catholic by the way.
John Walters March 25, 2012 at 03:14 AM
But the Government should not pay for your condoms, or Viagra.
Michael F Brennan April 14, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Much of the inane rhetoric here reveals a fundamental flaw in our culture. We, as a nation, have lost our grasp of the first freedom, religious liberty. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the FREE exercise thereof;..." That means no government sponsored belief system nor government interference in a religion's beliefs. Essentially this issue is about the meaning of the 1st Amendment as our nation has practiced it since its governance by the Constitution. Faith based charities and schools claim 1st Amendment rights. In addition the conscience of an employer must be respected. These are sacred covenants we hold as Americans. Unfortunately we are being reduced into squabbling about $9. a month contraceptive pills. However the HHS Mandate addresses sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, which are anathema to Catholic Church magisterium teaching. The Bishops cannot walk away. Michael F Brennan St Petersburg, Florida Michael F Brennan St Petersburg Florida

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