More than 100 people gathered on the west terrace at the Iowa State Capitol Friday for a noon-time rally to protest the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate requiring almost all employer health care plans to include free contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients.
The rally was one of more than 164 such events organized by the group Stand Up for Religious Freedom that took place across the country today on what was the 223rd anniversary of when James Madison introduced his proposed amendments to the Constitution to the First United States Congress. These amendments, which would become known as the Bill of Rights, include the guarantee of religious freedom. Rallies were also in other Iowa cities including Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Fairfield, and Fort Madison.
The keynote speaker in Des Moines, Msgr. Frank Bognanno, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Parish in Des Moines, told the crowd that the government should not force Americans to act against their religious conscience. Bognanno was appointed last month to the Iowa Board of Medicine by Gov. Terry Branstad after Colleen Pasnik, an anti-abortion activist from Dubuque, was rejected by Senate Democrats. After addressing the crowd Bognanno had to leave the rally early to attend a meeting of the Iowa Board of Medicine.
Other speakers at today’s event included Jenifer Bowen from Iowa Right to Life, candidate Patti Branco of Iowa House District 34, Rev. Matt Floyd from Concerned Women for America and Deacon Rick Condon of St. Pius Catholic Parish in Urbandale.
Branco told the demonstrators that the government was heading down a slippery slope that would erode religious freedom for all. “I am for freedom for everyone, including the woman in the womb,” said Branco who is running in the newly defined district which includes downtown Des Moines and is bounded by I-235 on the north, County Line Road on the south, Fleur Drive on the west and along South Union Street on the east.
Stand Up for Religious Freedom is a nation-wide coalition of almost 100 pro-life and faith-based organizations. Today’s demonstration is a run up to “A Fortnight for Freedom,” a nationwide 14-day period of prayer, education and public protest against the HHS mandate being organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that begins June 21.
The Diocese of Des Moines is organizing an event that will be held Sunday, July 1 that includes a walk from St. Ambrose Cathedral at 6th and High Streets to the Iowa State Capitol followed by a program and family picnic. The walk begins at noon with the program to begin at 2 p.m. on the east side lawn of the Capitol building. The event is open to all who want to participate.
For more information about the route, shuttle transportation and parking please see http://www.dmdiocese.org/religious-liberty.cfm