Tulsans Rally For Religious Freedom

Friday, June 8th 2012, 1:50 pm
By: News On 6

The Diocese of Tulsa is taking its fight over reproductive rights to downtown Tulsa. Dozens of people showed up for the "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rally Friday to protest part of the Obama administration's health care plan. 

Catholic and other local religious leaders are defending their rights against what they call an unconstitutional mandate.

The Obama Administration's Affordable Care Act includes a requirement for contraception and sterilization coverage in most private heath care plans.

Kathy Rodgers believes part of President Obama's health care plan is an egregious disregard of the First Amendment.

"I think it's open for all churches and all belief systems because if they can do it to the Catholics, they can do it to anybody," Rodgers said.

The mandate requires most employers, including Christian schools and hospitals, to offer contraceptives through their health care plans. Catholics say that requirement violates the constitutional right to freedom of religion. 

"As a people of faith and as citizens of this great nation, we should not be forced to choose one over the other," said Bishop Edward Slattery, Diocese of Tulsa.

Local organizer Timothy Putnam said this is not about contraceptives.

"This is about preventing the government from imposing on our religious beliefs. This is about the First Amendment," he said.

Friday's rally was promoted as part of a national effort involving 160 cities. It comes just before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on whether the health care act is constitutional.

Catholics have religious and moral convictions about contraceptives, but they say the real issue is much more than that.

"It's the fact that the government is coming in and telling us that we have to violate our conscience to be good citizens, and we just don't think that's the case," said Timothy Putnam, Diocese of Tulsa.

Unlike many other Catholic organizations, the Diocese of Tulsa has not filed a federal lawsuit against the mandate.

But they're fighting just the same.

"We are kind of holding the door to religious freedom. If this goes, there is precedent, and we won't be able to get it back," said Kathy Rodgers, Stand Up for Religious Freedom supporter.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the president's Health Care plan soon. Local organizers say they'll continue to fight for their cause even after the decision.

They already have more events planned for later this month.