Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer - Dozens gather outside the United States Court House on Niagara Square, Buffalo, to protest the Heath and Human Services Mandate proposed by the Obama administration
The Diocese of Buffalo has proved it will not sit down and let its religious freedoms be taken away. In sync with 160 other cites across the country, the diocese held its second “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally outside the downtown federal courthouse on Friday, June 8.
The array of speakers included educators, religious leaders and pro-life advocates from inside and outside western New York, who focused much of their discourse on the intentions of America’s Founding Fathers.
Deist Benjamin Franklin spoke in favor of prayers, saying, “God governs in the affairs of men. Without this recurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel,” and “Men are so wicked as we see them now with religion. What would they be like without it?” Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third president, said, “No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion, nor can be.”
Cheryl Calire, director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities for the diocese, presented a statement from Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, in which he called the mandate an “unprecedented assault on religious liberty,” that would “force the Church to violate our own beliefs.”
“In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson responded to a letter from the superior of the Ursuline Sisters in New Orleans, who had expressed concern that the 1803 Treaty of Cession would compromise the order’s religious freedom. ‘The principles of the constitution and the government of the United States are a sure guarantee (that your property) will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority,’ the president wrote. ‘Be assured (your religious institution) will meet all the protection which my office can give it,’” the bishop wrote. “More than two centuries later, we pray our nation’s current leadership will reflect on the wisdom of one of our Founding Fathers, and act accordingly. Let freedom ring!”
Father Dennis J. Mancuso, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Belfast, and St. Patrick’s in Fillmore, spoke from the perspective of a military veteran, having served in the Navy before his ordination.
“How many of us would have given our lives for our country if called to do so, and how many of us know others who have paid the final and most ultimate sacrifice for freedom?” he asked. “I think in this fight for religious freedom we honor them, because it was for this on battlefields near and far that they shed their blood, the dearest thing they had, for freedom. How many of our forefathers came to these shores seeking religious freedom, seeking a place where they could come, a place where they could raise their families, a place where they could grow and worship unharried and unmolested by government forces that would interfere.”
Guest speaker Norman Fulkerson, a 25-year veteran of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and a native of Kentucky, called to abolish the “entire Socialist Obamacare Program all together,” which brought on cheers and whistles. “The reason we say this is because it is a program that has been tried in numerous other countries and it has been shown to be a dismal failure. … It doesn’t work. Why do we need to try it here?”
His speech was interrupted no less than seven times by a semi driving by, blowing its horn and bearing the sign “No HHS Mandate,” drawing cheers with each passing.
Although this rally drew a slightly smaller crowd that the first rally held March 23, the sidewalk in front of the Federal building was still packed, the crowd just had a little more elbow room.
“We need to stand up for our religious beliefs,” said Judy Heppner from Immaculate Conception Parish in Ransomville, one of the many signholders in the crowd. “We have to do more than just say we believe, we have to show we believe. Our country is founded on these principals.”
Heppner feels more emphasis should be placed on the fact that God played an important role in the founding of this country.
“They keep saying how many times our forefathers wrote about Christian values. People in this country forget that’s what we were founded on, Judeo-Christian values. It’s everywhere in our Constitution and every writing of those early Founding Fathers. We need to get that message out,” she said.
The value of Catholic vote got Mark Stark, of Assumption Parish in Buffalo, to think.
“Our vote does make a big difference, and hopefully enough people will hear about it to promote that we don’t want to have this in our country.”
Tom Hynes agreed.
“The biggest thing I heard was that senators think that people are going to vote for them anyway, no matter what they do. So we got to start standing to them up and calling in and tell them we’re not going to vote for them if they go for stuff like this. They think they can get away with it and nobody’s going to do anything,” Hynes said.
The rally will be followed by a Fortnight of Freedom, a two-week period of prayer beginning held from June 21 to July 4.