MERRILLVILLE | The gloves came off Wednesday as religious leaders from Roman Catholic and Protestant churches across Lake County gathered to blast one mandate of the Health and Human Services Affordable Care Act.
During a news conference at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, leaders of the newly formed Coalition for Religious Liberty in NWI challenged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requirement that all employers, except houses of worship, must include in their health care plans free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs.
“In an unprecedented act of tyranny, the federal government is forcing religious employers such as Catholic hospitals, Christian schools and faith-based pregnancy care centers to provide and pay for such coverage for their employees regardless of their religious beliefs,” said the Rev. Ron Johnson Jr., senior pastor of Living Stones Church in Crown Point.
“We are gathered here today to remind our federal government that religious liberty is an inalienable right given to us by God and that the proper role of government is to secure and protect those rights through law,” said Johnson, who called for a full rescinding of the law.
The Rev. Sammie Maletta, of St. John the Evangelist Parish in St. John, called the government’s mandate “intolerable” and said the requirement “moves beyond the particular moral issue to represent a broader and more fundamental right of religious liberty.”
In addition, the pastors said they also object to the use of taxpayer money to fund this action.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, supported the health care law after a February rally against it.
"HHS has determined that the full range of FDA-approved forms of contraception must be covered, and I support the department's decision," Visclosky said at the time in a statement. "This requirement was created to ensure that women have full access to legal, FDA-approved services."
The Obama administration has said it will make contraception and other health care services cheaper for consumers.
Maletta said the vision and mission for the coalition is to present a united voice for Christians in Northwest Indiana that is “politically nonpartisan and nonbiased towards any particular candidate” in the upcoming election.
“Our message is simple: Christians need to vote, and their vote cannot be based on the philosophy or ideology of a political party nor upon the philosophy or ideology of a trade union, but on the values they hold as a Christian,” he said.
To emphasize its mission, Maletta said the coalition has placed 4,000 “We Support Religious Liberty” yard signs and a number of billboards throughout Northwest Indiana.
Rallies are also planned for Saturday and Oct. 27.
“This is a mandate that impacts every citizen regardless of their religious beliefs,” Maletta said. “We encourage people from all over the area to gather for the rally.”