Stand Up for Religious Freedom San Francisco rally took place on Friday, March 23 at the Federal Building Plaza. It was one of the 140 rallies held on Friday across the country, coast to coast. Armed with copies of the Women Speak for Themselves open letter to President Obama, Michele Coldiron and her fellow New Feminists gathered over 250 signatures. I spoke at the rally and offered the New Feminist perspective on the HHS mandate.
Good afternoon everyone! I am here to talk to you as a FEMINIST.
I am a lawyer and a feminist: a New Feminist. I come from a long line of authentic feminists who caused change in this country: ending slavery and child labor, treating the poor with compassion, securing the right to vote for women.
These authentic feminists caused change because of their religious convictions. Susan B. Anthony fought for the right of women to vote from her religious conviction that God gave women the same dignity as men. Katharine Drexel fought racism and the Ku Klux Klan from a religious conviction that God made all persons with equal dignity.
I could stand here all day and go through long list of women who changed this country because they acted upon their religious convictions. These are women – like all of the women here today – who say, “I cannot just sit around and talk about my religious convictions. That’s ridiculous.” Religious conviction without action, without the right to act upon it, is hot air.
President Obama wants to take away the right to act, the right of Catholics and people of faith to act upon their religious convictions regarding abortion and contraception. He wants the Catholics to go to the back of the bus and stay there. He wants them to stay in the back of the bus and chat among themselves.
I am a Catholic and I do not want to go to the back of the bus. I don’t want my bus fare to pay for abortions and contraception that I know are bad for women, men, children and families. I know these are wrong through my religious convictions.
You may not agree with me about my religious convictions, but I think you will agree that I have a right to say so and to act upon my religious convictions.
President Obama and Secretary Sebelius think my religious convictions on these issues are nothing but hot air. They should know better. They should remember Rosa Parks. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to stay in the back of the bus. She was a woman of religious conviction and action.
One day Rosa Parks said, “No, I will not go to the back of the bus today. I will never go to the back of the bus again.”
Every woman here today, every single one of you is just like Rosa Parks. We are women like Rosa Parks and we are sitting down in the front of the bus today. We are demanding our right to act upon our religious convictions.
Being here today means you are a woman of action and a woman of faith. Nearly 25,000 women of action and women of faith have signed a letter to President Obama demanding our rights to practice our faith in public. We want you to join us and sign the letter. There are women in the crowd who can give you a copy of the letter and take your signature. Or you can go to www.WomenSpeakForThemselves.org and sign the letter.
It’s short and sweet and to the point.
We are women who support the competing voice offered by Catholic institutions on matters of sex, marriage and family life. Most of us are Catholic, but some are not. We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Many, at some point in our careers, have worked for a Catholic institution. We are proud to have been part of the religious mission of that school, or hospital, or social service organization. We are proud to have been associated not only with the work Catholic institutions perform in the community – particularly for the most vulnerable — but also with the shared sense of purpose found among colleagues who chose their job because, in a religious institution, a job is always also a vocation.
Those currently invoking “women’s health” in an attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with forcing religious institutions or individuals to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken, and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of “costless” birth control with “equality,” note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects, or that some forms act at some times to destroy embryos, or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more non-marital births and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.
No one speaks for all women on these issues. Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake. Each of us, Catholic or not, is proud to stand with the Catholic Church and its rich, life-affirming teachings on sex, marriage and family life. We call on President Obama and our Representatives in Congress to allow religious institutions and individuals to continue to witness to their faiths in all their fullness.
Please join us. Please sign this letter. Refuse to take your religious convictions to the back of President Obama’s bus.