WASHINGTON, D.C. March 25, 2012 – Some 200 faithful Americans assembled for Day 1 of Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer.
Our longtime partner Reverend Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition led the two-hour vigil and, at certain points of prayer, asked us to humble ourselves by kneeling before the Lord God because the site would turn “into a circus” as the Supreme Court hears lawsuits against President Obama and his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Faith and Action’s Chief of Program Peggy Nienaber and Supporter Relations Coordinator Patty Bills welcomed clergy and pilgrims, and assisted Rev. Mahoney. Patrick’s wife, Katie Kathleen Hennessey Mahoney, sang Christian songs. And Greg Cox of our communications team was on hand as well.
Rev. Mahoney opened the ceremonies by recognizing those who had attended the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rallies on Friday.
He said, “But now we are coming to pray – to humble ourselves before God and asking God to intervene on what is arguably the most important case before this court since the Roe v. Wade decision.
“And so we are coming before God and asking God to superintend.
“Begin with this: The scriptures say, ‘This day I call the heavens and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; I say chose life.’ God says, “Now choose life – so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord, your God. Listen to His voice and hold fast to Him, for the Lord is your life and he will give you many years in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 30)
“To the court, God has set before them, over the next three days of arguments, life or death. We pray that this court chooses life.”
Reverend Myke Crowder, pastor of Christian Life Center in Layton, Utah, came to represent the National Clergy Council.
Rev. Crowder said, “Now our focus today is exclusively prayer for the justices, along with the lawyers that are arguing the case – and especially, and most importantly, for the God-given right which is to practice our faith according to the dictates of our consciences and not the dictates of government or any other human agency.”
Rev. Crowder further prayed for President Obama and everyone assisting the Supreme Court justices.
Rev. Mahoney then read “Prayer for the Poor” by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In keeping with that prayer, he named each of the Supreme Court justices and asked the Lord to give them clarity; he also requested healthcare reform that doesn’t violate the Constitution and “provides true justice and care for every American.”
He told the crowd that as part of a public relations campaign, President Obama and the White House have attempted to organize their own prayer vigil at the Supreme Court. Someone from media had asked him if the opposing vigils were like two groups of fans praying for two sports teams.
“We are praying the First Amendment and religious liberty will be protected and honored,” said Mahoney. “This is not about a basketball team. We are praying that innocent lives are not destroyed and we don’t have to pay for this.”
He prayed for President Obama and Congress.
Patty led the pilgrims in laying 3,300 flowers around the court to represent the number of babies aborted every day in America.
As the pilgrims knelt around the court near the flowers, Reverend Pierre Bynum, chaplain for the Family Research Council, prayed aloud for all public officials and the pastors of America. He said, “The action of the people of God in America is even more important than that of all of our elected leaders.”
He said pastors are most important because they are supposed to preach and teach the truth, they are supposed to mobilize their flocks to do God’s will in all things.
Referring to President Obama’s law and mandates to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, Rev. Bynum prayed, “Let the power and Spirit of God come upon your pastors to cause them to teach and to preach like they’ve never taught before. Lord, we are on the verge of what could be the largest expansion of abortion since Roe verses Wade.”
He asked God to forgive His church for failing to rise up against the Supreme Court decriminalizing abortion 39 years ago. He asked the Lord to help everyone repent and fight for religious liberty, the foundation of human rights.
Father Marcel Guarnizo, a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. led the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
The refrain to this prayer is: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Throughout the vigil, many passersby stopped to listen and some joined in the prayers.
Members of media included radio, photographers, and TV reporters from local stations and networks.
Father Paul Schenck, chair of the National Pro-Life Council on Capitol Hill, and his twin brother, Reverend Rob Schenck, the president of Faith and Action, will be at the Supreme Court on Monday.
In fact, the New York Times interviewed Rob and apparently persons waiting in line for tickets to the hearings praised Faith and Action. Click here for “Waiting (and Sleeping) in Line, for View of Health Care History.”
For the vigil schedule, please see March 25-28: Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer.
WASHINGTON, DC (National Pro-Life Center) – On Friday, March 23, 2012, Fr. Paul Schenck, the founder and chairman of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill (NPLC) and priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, stood with more than 1,000 concerned citizens in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
As the John Paul II Fellow of the NPLC and a deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, I stood with hundreds of others in Norfolk, Virginia, the city next my home in Chesapeake. We were joined together in a band of solidarity with thousands of others participating in the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rallies in the United States.
There were 140 rallies held on March 23, 2012. It is only the beginning. We all gathered in collaborative citizen Action in response to an unjust and unconstitutional Edict issued by On January 20, 2012 by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The mandate requires all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortion inducing drugs, and contraception in their health care plans. At risk is the future of the American experiment in ordered liberty and we will not cease our work until this horrid HHS Mandate is rescinded.
A new freedom movement has been birthed in the United States of America. It is authentically ecumenical and interreligious. It is not a part of any organized political party. It cannot be dismissed with the limiting political labels used these days to disparage those who share a common concern over the erosion of the very foundation of our freedoms. This is a citizen response to the growing hostility toward – and threats against – the first freedom, religious freedom.
The alleged exemption provided for religious employers did not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other vital expressions of our Catholic faith and mission. The purported accommodation which followed was a fraud, a shell game, which accomplished nothing. When the Mandate was recorded in the Federal Register, nothing had changed.
Catholics, like many other Christians, believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands a response which goes beyond the walls of our Church buildings. We are our brother and sister’s keeper. We do not reach out to people in need because they are Catholic. We reach out to people in need because we are Catholic. Our work in the public square, efforts to elevate the culture and history of service rooted in the love of charity – offered to all men and women for the common good – are at the heart of our understanding of our mission as Christians.
This HHS Edict is a violation of the Free Exercise of Religion which is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF! That Right to the Free Exercise of religion has been called the “FIRST FREEDOM” in the American tradition for good reason. It is a foundation for all of our freedoms. Religious Freedom is a fundamental human right.
The Birth Certificate of our Nation, the Declaration of Independence, affirmed the existence of inalienable rights and self evident truths. Those Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness are endowed by our Creator and not conferred by a Government. They cannot – they will not – be taken away by the Federal Government.
Religious Liberty is at the heart of the understanding of Right to Liberty in the Western tradition. If this Mandate is not rescinded, it will require all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortion inducing drugs, and contraception in their health care plans or face the boot of fines and penalties.
The fines and penalties would have the practical result of closing many of the Church’s outreaches, ministries and institutions of care and compassion. This HHS Mandate not only injures the Church and religious institutions it injures American society. It harms the common good. It is an unjust law.
The Federal Government of the United States is trying to force us to act against deeply held religious convictions and to violate conscience. The claim that such an edict is an unjust law is rooted in the western understanding of the nature of law itself.This is the firm foundation upon which the American founders grounded their insistence that there are inalienable rights, endowed upon us all by a Creator, which cannot be taken away by any civil government. Positive law must reflect the Natural Law.
Saint Augustine said of an unjust law, “For it seems to me that an unjust law is no law at all.” Saint Thomas Aquinas explained, “Human law is law only in virtue of its accordance with right reason: and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.” In doing so, they echoed Cicero, Aristotle and Plato and the entire Natural Law Tradition.
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, gave this explanation of how one determines whether a law is unjust, “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
This Edict came one day after Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of US Bishops during their visit. He warned them of the growth of radical secularism in the United States and the accompanying threats to the fundamental Right to Religious Freedom so integral to the American experiment.
So, a massive resistance movement has been birthed. A New Freedom Movement is responding to this awful HHS mandate. In over 140 Cities rallies of every size, including people from every walk of life, were held on March 23, 2012. Mark that day! It is only the beginning. Christians from every faith community, along with other people of faith and all people of good will who cherish our first freedom, stood up for Religious Freedom.
22 Catholic Bishops spoke at these rallies; many others unable to attend sent letters of strong support. Every single Catholic Bishop in the United States is unified in opposition to this egregious mandate. Leaders of many other Christian communities stood with us, as did people of other religious faiths or no particular religious faith at all. What we all held in common was our bedrock commitment to protecting the fundamental human right to religious freedom.
There is a silver lining in the cloud of the threat to this fundamental freedom. This HHS Edict has given rise to a tide of resistance which holds great promise for the future. We have also found one another once again. We are standing together in a movement of solidarity and citizen action which holds great promise for the future of this nation and the West, struggling as they both are with the loss of a moral compass provided by the influence of the values informed by faith.
We are engaged in a struggle on several fronts. We using the Courts. Lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and the U.S. Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis as defendants. They allege that the mandate is a violation of the First Amendment and of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. AND IT IS!
We are also supporting every legislative effort. There have been legislative responses, but, as of yet they have been unsuccessful. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). It aims to ensure that all who participate in the health care system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
Drawing from the history iof other great human and civil rights movements in our history as a free people, we are engaged in citizen action. On March 23, 2012 we gathered in rallies in 140 places, a seed of what is yet to come. America Citizens, standing together against an unjust federal mandate, exercising our other fundamental constitutional rights such as the Rights to Free Speech, Free Association and Free Assembly – and the Right to Petition our Government for a Redress of grievances, we are defending the fundamental human right to the first freedom, Religious Freedom. We will succeed because our cause is just.
Another part of the response which Fr Paul and I have undertaken, in response to the urgency of the hour is the launch of the “William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive” and the “William Bentley Ball Religious Freedom Project”. As a constitutional lawyer who dedicated much of my career to public interest law to the life, liberty and family, I am honored to serve with Fr Paul Schenck in this project. William Bentley Ball, the great Catholic Constitutional Lawyer, was – and still is – one of my great heroes.
At this urgent hour in our Nation’s history, the work which Bill Ball began must continue. He was a champion of Religious Freedom as the First Freedom. He left a legacy reflecting his lifetime of service to his Church and country which includes his research notes, numerous awards, writings, photos, poems, letters, artifacts and accomplishments. This priceless material is now housed in the William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive on Capitol Hill, located at 109 2nd Street NE in Washington, DC, directly across the street from the US Supreme Court.
The Memorial Archive was dedicated on the weekend on which we gathered for another vital citizen Rally, to commemorate the horrid decisions of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton which stripped away from the civil law of the United States the fundamental Natural law Right to life of our youngest neighbors in the first home of the whole human race, their mother’s womb. Bill Ball was a courageous defender of the Fundamental Human Right to life.
Our hope and prayer is that this Memorial will become a point of destination for many. The William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive exists to honor his work and to inspire, equip and encourage people to continue his legacy. It will provide a resource base for the continuing work of defending the first freedom, Religious Freedom, to which William Bentley Ball III dedicated his inspiring life and career of service to his faith and his Nation.
The Nation William Bentley Ball II loved and served needs Catholic lawyers who, along with other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will can articulate an authentic Natural Law Jurisprudence as the path to providing a lasting defense of the inalienable rights which our founders believed in and enshrined in our founding documents.
These rights cannot be conferred by government and must not be denied by government. That is why the William Bentley Ball project will also build a living legacy to this great man.There is an unfinished work which we must be about – defending religious freedom as a fundamental human right and the first freedom.
On Friday, March 23, 2012, as I stood in Norfolk, Virginia at the “Stand for Religious Freedom Rally”, I thought of Bill Ball. I knew, in the communion of saints, he stood with us. Fr Paul and I will be writing much more about the William Bentley Ball project, so, stay tuned.