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Second Wave of Religious Freedom Rallies Draws Thousands

Another round of religious freedom rallies took place on Friday, June 8, and drew tens of thousands into the streets to take a public stand against recent laws that violate the Constitution's First Amendment right to freedom of religion. is reporting that the protests, led by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, were held in 160 cities and drew boisterous crowds carrying yellow balloons and waving signs that read "Stop the HHS Mandate!"

Led by clerics, pro-life leaders, and lawmakers, the rallies kept the focus on violations of religious freedom that are contained in ObamaCare's controversial HHS mandate which forces religious institutions to fund insurance for reproductive health services that violate their beliefs.

The rowdiest rally took place in Chicago where pro-life activist Jill Stanek spoke to protestors in the city's Federal Plaza. At the end of her speech, Stanek unexpectedly began to dance to the music of a Jazz band as hundreds of youth converged on the plaza wearing 1930's outfits and carrying clusters of yellow balloons. The theme of the event was to "swing public opinion" organizers proclaimed.

At the Washington DC rally, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who recently made headlines for sponsoring a bill banning sex-selection abortion, told CNA the issue of how the administration's new healthcare laws are violating religious freedom “is not going to go away.”

“There are enough people in this country that are committed to the cause of religious freedom,” he said. “They understand that it’s the basis of all other freedoms, and they will not abandon this cause.”

Describing the mandate as an attack on religious liberty that forces people to choose between violating their faith or facing government fines, he said the mandate "is simply not going to be something the American people will swallow.”

Lawmakers were joined by bishops in many cities, such as in Miami where Archbishop Thomas Wenski led his South Florida flock into the streets. In Trenton, Bishop David O'Connell preached to an overflowing crowd in St. Mary's Cathedral before leading a crowd of 900 to march on the New Jersey capitol. Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas told protestors that “Civil law must never require what conscience forbids, nor forbid what conscience requires.”

About 300 people turned out for a rally in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham where Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange told the crowd that "this is a battle we'll be fighting for generations, and I'll be on the forefront of that battle."

Strange filed a motion on March 22 to join a federal lawsuit initiated by EWTN Global Catholic Network, whose president, Michael Warsaw, also spoke at the rally.

Warsaw  said it was necessary to file the suit to prevent Catholic employers from being forced to provide healthcare that violates their consciences. "We need to stand up and defend our rights as we're doing today," he said.

Eric Scheidler, national co-director of the rallies, said that the first set of rallies, held on March 23, “were a tremendous success,” and said that continuing the rallies helps “advance the coming judicial, legislative and electoral battles” against the mandate by “keeping the injustice before the public.”

The U.S. Bishops intend to do just that by launching an unprecedented two week campaign of protests, prayer, fasting and educational outreaches dedicated to keeping the public informed about recent encroachments on religious freedom and pressuring the government to rethink their policies.

At some point during this two week period, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down its long awaited decision on ObamaCare which will determine if the law's individual mandate is Constitutional.

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