Hundreds in Tacoma protest contraception rule
More than 300 people rallied for religious freedom Friday in downtown Tacoma, protesting President Barack Obama’s mandate that employee health plans include contraceptive coverage.
Catholic, evangelical Christian and Greek Orthodox speakers urged the crowd at Tollefson Plaza to unite and take action.
“I, like you, have been called to be a soldier in the battle for religious freedom,” Tacoma resident Kristine Mauss told the gathering. “We can’t just sit back.”
Many in the crowd sent a message with signs: “Stop Obama’s HHS Mandate,” “Protect the First Amendment” and “One Nation Under God.”
The rally was one of 140 held nationwide Friday – including events in Seattle, Spokane and Walla Walla – by a coalition called Stand Up for Religious Freedom. At the national level, the rallies were organized by representatives of the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.
At issue is the Obama administration’s mandate through the Department of Health and Human Services that employee health plans include 100 percent contraceptive coverage. Religious hospitals and universities were initially included in the requirement. After conservatives objected, Obama said in February that religiously affiliated institutions could opt out, but insurers must pay for the coverage.
That didn’t solve the problem, according to Stand Up for Religious Freedom’s website, because the mandate still forces employers to provide health plans with free contraception and sterilizations.
“This mandate is a challenge to the fabric, the core of our lives,” said Angela Connelly, a Tacoma mother of nine children. She told the audience what’s at stake is “the right to religion and to follow our conscience.”
The Rev. Wayne Perryman, of City Church in Kirkland, cited examples to demonstrate government and judicial intrusion on religion.
“Now they want to mandate what type of health services we provide for our employees, even if such services violate our doctrines and faith,” Perryman said.
When informed of the rally, a leader on health care in the Legislature said contraceptive coverage already is part of every insurance plan in Washington. Obama’s plan would remove the co-pay, said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.
“What they are arguing for is an exception to the standard,” said Keiser, who is chairwoman of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee.
“Their freedom stops at their body,” said Keiser, herself a Lutheran. “They don’t get to impose their idea of freedom on somebody else’s body.”
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 steve.maynard@ thenewstribune.com
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