Dozens of people have already been arrested over the weekend for kneeling and praying in front of the White House.
ActsFive29, a group of like-minded, pro-life defenders launched the D.C. prayer rally knowing their members could indeed be arrested, but asserting it’s worth it, because, “The future of religious freedom in America is at risk.”
The group claims Acts 5:29 – “But Peter and the Apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” – as their basis for protesting the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services mandate requiring employer-provided health insurance cover birth control measures.
“Obamacare will force institutions, churches and individuals to purchase abortion-inducing drugs and pay for sterilization and abortion in direct opposition to their beliefs, conscience and historic teachings of the Church,” says the group. “With the recent Supreme Court ruling affirming Obamacare, the future of religious freedom in America is at risk and in grave danger of being entirely wiped out.”
On Saturday afternoon, 22 members of the group knelt on the sidewalk in prayer and were arrested by Capitol Police, with the prayer rally (and possible arrests) planned to continue through Oct. 2.
The group says that the only basis for their arrest is that the sidewalk in front of the White House is a “restricted zone” for free speech.
Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life told WND, “We have stood up for life and religious freedom in hundreds of cities. Today we do so at the president’s house. I am delighted to be here.”
The group says that the president is “dictating to Christians how they should live their faith” and that they are taking a stand, while risking arrest for doing so.
Bryan Kemper, director of youth outreach at Priests for Life, told WND that he was arrested on Saturday afternoon for kneeling on the sidewalk near the White House while holding a sign that said, “Stand Up for Religious Freedom.”
“I am here today as a father of seven children who is willing to lose my freedom to protect my children’s future freedom,” he told WND. “I was arrested yesterday when I knelt and prayed holding a sign for religious freedom, and I will kneel and pray again today, risking arrest again.”
He told WND that this issue is vital for all American’s to understand.
“We must take this stand now, or we will have no freedom to do so tomorrow,” he said. “I will obey God rather than man.”
He finished, “The HHS mandate violates God’s law and forces us to sin, and I will not comply.”
Brandi Swindell, National Director of Generation Life, a pro-life group dedicated to mobilizing activists, students, artists, musicians and young professionals to end abortion and spread the message of sexual integrity, told WND that she had a “divine appointment” in Washington today.
“Three of us chose to attend church at St. John’s this morning,” Swindell said, “and at the last minute found out that Kathleen Sebelius, the architect of the HHS Mandate was holding an adult forum between services.”
Swindell told WND that she got the secretary’s attention, and in front of a packed auditorium asked her, “Why are you forcing the American people to pay for abortion-inducing drugs that harm women? It’s a severe violation of religious freedom.”
The secretary ignored the question and left the stage.
Video of the exchange, and the critical reaction of other church attendees, can be seen below:
Swindell told WND that just four years ago she was arrested and deported from communist China for standing up for religious freedom there.
“I stood in Tiananmen Square holding a banner that said, ‘Jesus Christ is King’ and was arrested,” Swindell said. “I never imagined that just four years later I’d be standing in front of the White House risking the very same thing.”
She told WND that she intended to hold the same banner declaring “Jesus Christ is King” in front of the White House Sunday afternoon, and fully expected to be arrested for it.
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, says of the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally, being held across the street from the White House, “For the faith community, we can never be silent or indifferent when it comes to matters of justice, human rights and religious freedom.”
He continued, “As people of principle and faith, we must purpose in our hearts that we will never comply with an unjust or immoral government mandate [that] would require us to violate our conscience, the teachings of the Scriptures and the historic teachings of the church.”
“We want to make it clear to President Obama and all public officials,” he concluded, “that we would rather spend time in jail than to be forced into complying with a mandate that crushes religious freedom.”