At noon, rallies standing up for religious freedom, took place across the country. Three rallies protesting the HHS mandate were held in the State of Minnesota. One in St. Paul, another in Duluth, and a third in St. Cloud.
Gathered beneath the arches, marked by granite images of the four Gospel writers, on the stairs of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, Minn. a little more than 350 people gathered for a prayerful and peaceful demonstration. Holding homemade signs that read: “Washington D.C.‘s Pharoah’s: Let My People Go,” “Nurse’s Conscience Rights,” and “Respect Religious Rights,” the rally was attended by families, doctors, nurses, business owners, retirees, Catholics and non-Catholics, teenagers, seminarians, deacons, and one lone priest from the neighboring Diocese of New Ulm. Many employees took time away from their lunch breaks to attend. After an opening prayer, rally captain and retired registered nurse Jim Schwarz spoke about how Christians “birth Christ in the world” through worship, witness, and acts of service.
“For the Catholic Church this is not just a violation of our conscience, it is a violation of religious liberty, the first of all rights under the first amendment because it impedes the free exercise of religion,” said Schwarz. “Unless the mandate is dropped, the Church will either have to close its institutions or remove the name ‘Catholic’ off the door and abandon its mission.”
Following the Prayer to St. Michael, the crowd was led in singing “America the Beautiful” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Then the protestors marched slowly around the city block in prayer to demonstrate in front of Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) office. After filing past his office, the group then re-assembled on the stairs of the Cathedral to conclude the rally by praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for “the restoration of our religious freedom and to rescind the mandate.”
“I’m here because of the First Amendment and the government telling us we have to pay for medications that induce abortion, which is something I don’t believe in,” said Angie Brandmire, a nursing assistant at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Saint Cloud. “The government is taking control of our lives. This is a land where we’re supposed to be free, and free from persecution.”
Schwarz said that he hopes to organize another rally in Moorhead, Minn. He said that he would like to organize a rally outside of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) office. “She’s been a barrier to establishing conscience rights,” said Schwarz.