CLEVELAND, Ohio--- Hundreds of Catholics in Northeast Ohio rallied together to protest the federal mandate that requires most religious employers to require healthcare coverage for employees.
As part of a nationwide protest, Catholics in 139 cities organized simultaneous rallies to defend what they consider to be, “government intrusion on their religious freedom.”
Friday afternoon, Catholic leaders and their supporters gathered at Willard Park in downtown Cleveland.
According to Dr. John Hisso, the message is simple.
“Rescind the mandate, endorse freedom of conscience," said Hisso. "Nobody should be forced to do something they think is immoral.”
The Health and Human Services mandate requires employers to pay for healthcare that includes contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs that go against the Catholic religion.
Last month, the Obama administration revised the mandate allowing religious employers to decline contraceptives for moral reasons.
Under the president’s plan, insurance companies would still be required to offer contraceptive coverage to women who work for those employers.
“So many women’s voices are not being heard,” said Annette Martin. “The battle is not about contraception on this issue, the battle is about religious freedom.”
Julie Kish took a bus with her parish in Akron to attend the rally.
“Pregnancy and childbirth are not a disease. They’re a gift from God," said Kish. "With the mandate, it goes against our conscience, our religious liberties as Americans.”
Dr. Daniel Tinman said, “The idea of requiring everyone to do something is smacks of dictatorship and tyranny.”
The Obama administration is conducting a 90-day public comment period. After the comments are reviewed, the rulings will be finalized in the Federal Registrar.