Friday, March 23, 2012

"Get the Government out of our Church!"

On March 23, at 12 noon local time, “Stand up for Religious Freedom” rallies were help in more than 150 cities across the United States. The San Francisco rally was held in the city’s Federal Building Plaza. By 11:15 AM 100 people had already gathered in anticipation of the noontime rally. By 11:30 the number had swelled to 200. By noon the plaza was about 2/3 full with a crowd estimate variously at between 500-1,000 people. The crowd included priests, nuns, religious brothers, as well as at least 50 children, from stroller age to high schoolers in Catholic school uniforms.

The rally was organized by the Walter and Lori Hoye and Mrs. Joni Durling. Mary Beth Bonacci of was mistress of ceremonies.

The HHS mandate was seen to present such a clear and present danger to basic American freedoms that even normally subdued and conciliatory speakers such as Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, San Francisco Archdiocesean Director of Public Policy George Wesolek, and Bill May, President of Catholics for the Common Good, were moved to vehemence.

Bishop Cordileone described the HHS mandate not as a Catholic or Christian issue, nor as one just affecting people of faith, but as an issue that affects all Americans as Americans. He related a conversation he had with his mother about the mandate. She told him “This (religious freedom) is what the pilgrims came to this country for!" The bishop continued “If my 85 year-old mother, who never went to college, can understand this, why is it so hard for our elected officials?...How dare the government define for us what constitutes our religious faith? Get the Government out of our church!"

George Wesolek began by describing an order of religious sisters who came to San Francisco in the late 1800’s. He recalled that they founded orphanages, began institutions to minister to the sick, and schools to educate the young, then observed that according to the mandate that would no longer be considered religious expression: “That is not a religious expression? Unbelievable!” As Wesolek enumerated the objections to the mandate, he paused at the end of each statement as the crowd shouted with him “Unbelievable!” Wesolek closed by saying “Mr. Obama, let Christians practice their faith as they see fit…we will not be confined to the Churches. That is not our mission!”

Wesolek was followed by Ms. Reggie Littlejohn of “Women’s Rights Without Frontiers” who noted ominous parallels between the HHS Mandate and the situation in China, where churches are only allowed to practice their faith at the whim of a communist government.

Even the normally soft spoken Bill May, President of Catholics for the Common Good, led the crowd in a chant. He related how some medical schools have, due to legalized abortion, removed the section of the Hippocratic Oath which says “First, do no harm.” May said “This (the mandate) causes harm…don’t force us to do harm!” As with Wesolek, following each of May’s statements the crowd responded “We will not do harm!”

Enrique Morales, Jr., co-pastor of Iglesia de Cristo Nuevo Pacto in San Francisco told the crowd “This is a sound of liberty. This is not a test of the emergency broadcast system. This is the real thing. Let freedom ring! Let freedom ring in San Francisco, in New York, in Dallas, in Washington DC! Let freedom ring across this country!”

Dolores Meehan, co-founder of the Walk for Life West Coast began by saying “I’m here with my rosary, and I’m here with my ovaries, and I’m here to tell you I’m not leaving either of them at home! Women will not be used to further your agenda!” She continued “You are trying to take our basic rights away by executive order. Well, come and get us. Game on. Send you National Guard to close down our secondary schools, our hospitals. The answer is simply ‘no.’ No man in the White House, no man in the Kremlin, no Chairman Mao, no Fidel Castro, no Barack Obama can take these rights away.”

The final speaker was Father Joseph Fessio,SJ of Ignatius Press. He told the crowd that when Obama was elected, "some people thought they were voting for a Messiah. Last month, he performed a true miracle... He united all of the Catholic bishops in the U.S!"

The rally closed with a short statement of thanks and encouragement by organizer Walter Hoye, followed by Diana Nagy performing America the Beautiful. Ms. Nagy also encouraged rally attendees to pick up any trash in the plaza before leaving, even if it was already there, because “that is who we are.”

Six or seven protestors attempted to disrupt the rally but the SFPD and Department of Homeland Security moved them to the margins of the rally. They began the old “Not the church, not the state…” chant but were drowned out by rally attendees singing the Ave Maria.

Photo of Bishop Cordileone courtesy John Herreid. For more of John's photo of the rally, go here.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

1 comment:

Shirley said...

Similar stories abound from cities around the county... yet The Media - without exception - dismissed it as a pro-life rally. Out of the thousands of signs displayed, they found 1 person with a pro-life sign at one of the rallies around the country, and that is what is displayed on all the news segments. Yes, we are unashamedly pro-life, but this is a 1st amendment issue (and IMHO, an Article I, Section 10, as well as an 5th Amendment issue ).