A flag-waving, sign-carrying crowd of about 500 people cheered as more than a dozen speakers, quoting, among others, Thomas Jefferson and St. Gaspar del Bufalo, took to the microphone for a 90-minute Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally in San Francisco on June 8. The rally, at the federal building on Seventh Street, was one of dozens of gatherings nationwide to draw attention to opposition to the Health and Human Services mandate.
Father Keyes told of young Gaspar, who, two centuries ago, was asked to swear allegiance to Napoleon. When Gaspar had been asked by his prefect to do the politically expedient, but morally wrong, Gaspar replied: I cannot. I must not. I will not.
The crowd repeated the chant several times during Father Keyes' speech and St. Gaspar's words were also repeated at the end of the rally,
Contingents from St. Joseph Parish in Pinole and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brentwood, which had been represented at the March rally, were in attendance again.
A group of parishioners from St. Joseph in Modesto came to the rally at which their pastor was speaking.
Parishioner Cameron Menezes praised Father Illo and pastors like him, who, he said, "remind you what your Catholic conscience should tell you."
In his speech, Father Illo recounted a recent visit to the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia with his elderly mother. "She had never seen that icon of American freedom," he said. They read the inscription on it: Proclaim liberty through all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof. "That is a quote from the Bible. It says on the bell Leviticus 25," he said.
"The message on the Liberty Bell is clear enough," he said. "God, not man, is the foundation of human liberty. If we attempt to build a social order apart from the law of God, we lose our freedom. Everyone loses."
The debate over religious freedom, Evans told the crowd, is not about access to contraception and health care, and it's not about the freedom of only Catholics. It is about, she said, "the federal government forcing Church institutions to act against their own teachings."
"It's about an unwarranted, narrow and unprecedented definition of religion," she said. "Government has no business defining religion or religious ministry."
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