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Advocates Protest Threat to Religious Freedom

Four Christian women protested outside Corpus Christi Church Wednesday against the proposed contraception mandate

The right to free exercise of religion is stated there in black and brown in the U.S. Constitution.

But American Christians nationwide are using the freedom of assembly and petition to get the word out against an HHS mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

One such assembly against what is believed to be an attack on religious freedom occurs every Wednesday on the grounds of in Upper Gwynedd along Sumneytown Pike.

That is where Carolyn Stenger, of Schwenksville, and three other peers were protesting Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m. They will return there every Wednesday, same time, and on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

"We are outside to evangelize and protect religious freedom," said Stenger, who said Corpus Christi Church Monsignor Thomas Flanagan gave permission to protest on church grounds. "HHS is an unjust law. If it goes through, it will force Catholic schools, charities and hospitals to close down."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services enacted a rule in January 2012 requiring employers to provide access to health insurance that covers most forms of birth control, including abortion.

The mandate exempts churches, but applies to religious employers.

"Our freedom is at stake," said Stenger. "People think we have a year to comply - we don't. There are 14 lawsuits against the mandate. That's why June is crucial: If it is not overturned, the mandate will start this August."

On Feb. 10, President Obama announced an “accommodation” for religious employers: Birth control would not have to be covered, and insurance companies would provide free birth control and morning after pills.

"They are forcing us to pay for insurances against our rights," Stenger said. "They are forcing us to pay for birth control and abortion drugs. We will not abide by that."

Stenger said a lot of drivers and passengers were looking at the protest and that's usually accompanied by a lot of yelling. Stenger said a former State Representative candidate told her he would spread the word.

"Once this goes," said Joanne O'Donnell, of Collegeville, "they will start to chip away at the Constitution, one piece at a time."

Barbara Koch, of Lansdale, said the government is attempting to tell American Christians what they must do.

"We are not telling people they can't get abortions, that's their choice," she said. "People need to stand up now for this. It is the beginning of the loss of our rights."

A rally will hit Independence Hall in Philadelphia on June 8 from noon to 1 p.m. You can expect Stenger and her peers to be there.

"We are trying to get a lot of churches involved in this," Stenger said. "Atheists have even come to the rallies."

Rosemary Doyle, of Towamencin, said thousands of men and women have died for these rights.

"This is not America," Doyle said.

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