Rally for Religious Freedom in Phoenix Park protests Obama administration policy

gkocher1@herald-leader.comOctober 20, 2012 

A Rally for Religious Freedom at Lexington's Phoenix Park on Saturday featured speakers who questioned a new federal mandate requiring religious organizations to provide health care coverage for employees that covers abortion drugs and contraception.

The Obama administration has "seized the power to define what faith is, who the faithful are, and when, how and where we get to practice our faith," said Bryan Beauman, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, a socially conservative legal consortium.

About 40 people turned out to listen to five speakers at the rally, the third in Lexington since the administration's Jan. 20 announcement regarding implementation of the 2010 health care law.

As initially written, the policy would have required all insurance plans nationwide to cover preventive health care for women with no co-payments, including services such as mammograms as well as contraception. It exempted churches from having to provide coverage they oppose, but it would not have exempted other Catholic institutions, such as hospitals. Opponents said that was government overreaching that threatened freedom of religion.

In February, the Obama administration said it would tweak the policy to preserve religious liberty. Rather than requiring religious organizations to provide the insurance, a power granted by the health care law, Obama said he would order insurance companies to provide supplemental coverage of contraception at no cost to the religious organization or the woman.

Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington took issue with Vice President Joe Biden's statements in the Oct. 11 debate with Rep. Paul Ryan in Danville. Biden, a Catholic, said he shares the church's belief that life begins at conception, but "I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews."

"Even if I could accept that distinction, which is tragically common," Gainer said, "I can't accept his contradictory position — his willingness, his readiness, his eagerness — to impose on that same pluralistic society his definition of preventive health care."

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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