CROWN POINT | About 200 people attended Saturday's clergy-led rally at the Lake County Government Complex to oppose insurers being mandated to provide free contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
Part revival meeting and part election rally, leaders and supporters of the Coalition for Religious Liberty in Northwest Indiana blasted the provision of the Affordable Care Act as the beginning of the downfall of religious liberty as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
Earlier in the day at a Jericho March, Indiana Knights of Columbus pro-life director Michael Velasco acknowledged exemptions provided to the Catholic Church under an accommodation offered by President Barack Obama's administration.
However, the exemptions do not apply to Catholic hospitals and other ministries, he said. Velasco said the law is the first infringement on religious freedom.
"The church has never been restricted before," he said. "They're telling us to do something against what we believe. We don't support abortion. We don't support sterilization. We don't support ... chemical or artificial contraception."
At the later rally, Lake County Right to Life President Len Reynolds said the law ignores the larger issue of the impact of abortion on women.
Rallying voters was Joel Phelps, the Republican opponent facing longtime U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.
"We own the government, not the politicians," said Phelps, of Portage.
He urged voters to oust supporters of the health care mandate on Election Day, Nov. 6.
"We have the right to abolish a government," he said. "But we have to get involved."
Visclosky voted for the new health care mandate.
The Rev. Ron Johnson, senior pastor at the Living Stones Church in Crown Point, called the measure an unprecedented attack on religious conscience and liberty.
"Our rights came from God, not government," Johnson said. He is a Republican candidate for state representative in the 19th district. "The role of government 'to protect our God-given rights.'"
The opposition crossed party lines.
"I say that these Democrats from Indiana who voted for Obamacare, and any Democrats or others who voted for or who now support Obamacare, should be expelled from the Congress in this election," said Woodrow Wilcox, a Democrat from Griffith.