This past Friday, at high noon in 90 degree weather, somewhere between 300 and 500 folks (depending on if you ask the reporters or the event planners) gathered at Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham to serve notice to our government that we are bound and determined to hold on to our religious freedom. I estimated the crowd to be around 400 before reading any reports.
I was one of those Bible and gun clinging, flag waving, Constitution carrying, freedom loving citizens that attended, walking the 5 blocks on my lunch hour. And I have the picture that appeared below the fold on the front page of the “Local” section of The Birmingham News, Saturday edition, to prove it.
Courtesy of, and with more pictures for your viewing pleasure from, al.com.
And a video from the local channel 13, the NBC affiliate …
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With one hand over my heart and a flag in the other, I’m singing the National Anthem with the crowd (in the white pants and black jacket to the far left at the 6 second mark). Ever notice that folks at conservative events know the words?
The video report from the local ABC affiliate is here.
Before I get into the details, here’s a little background on the event from the sponsor, Stand Up For Religious Freedom (SURF).
Come out on June 8, 2012—the 223rd anniversary of the day our Founding Father James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights, with its guarantee of religious freedom, to the First Congress—and stand up for religious freedom! The June 8 Stand Up Rally builds on the tremendous momentum created by the first Stand Up Rally on March 23.
On that day, over 63,000 Americans came out in 145 cities coast to coast pushed back against the new mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that requires all employers provide free contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans, even in violation of their consciences.
You can read more about SURF at their website, standupforreligiousfreedom.com and sign up for additional information.
And a little history about Kelly Ingram Park which is located just outside the doors of the 16th Street Baptist Church where four little black girls were killed by a bomb in 1963 during the Civil Rights Movement. From alabamatravel:
Distinguished as “A Place of Revolution and Reconciliation,” historic Kelly Ingram Park serves as a threshold to the Civil Rights District. During the Civil Rights Movement, this public park became the focal point of a grassroots resistance to the inhumanities of racism and discrimination by law and by custom. … Sculptures commissioned for the park depict attacks on demonstrators, children jailed for their role in the protests, and a tribute to the clergy’s contributions to the movement. All paths on Freedom Walk converge on its center, a peaceful and meditative life spring of hope.
Now to the main event (more on the park a little later). Since I’ve been unable to find any script or video of the remarks, I’ll have to paraphrase to the best of my recall (see mea culpa below). Each speaker had 5-10 minutes, so I’m going to highlight only a few of the remarks.
Speakers included Mrs. Eunie Smith*, President of the Eagle Forum of Alabama and representing the Southern Baptist Convention; Rev. Paul Hughes, Birmingham Prayer Furnace; Rev. Bishop Demetrics Roscoe, Pastor of Living Church Ministries Very Rev. Fr. Kevin Bazzel JCL, Rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, Birmingham; Rev. Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe, MFVA, EWTN priest; Cheryl Ciamarra of Alabama Citizens for Life; Jim Pinto, event organizer, local and national pro-life leader and EWTN** radio host; Michael Warsaw, President & CEO of EWTN; and “Big” Luther Strange, Attorney General, Alabama.
We started the rally with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Dawn Ray, fellow tea partier, fellow Shelby County GOP Steering Committee Member, tireless worker, 4th generation veteran and my friend. She had enlisted the aid of a couple of veterans to stand with her and hold the flag, one of whom served in Korea. As previously noted, we sang the National Anthem together which was followed by a prayer led by one of the clergy in attendance. Let me take a minute here to point out that although this was largely a Catholic sponsored event, non-Catholics were well represented, both on stage and off.
Jim Pinto, director of the SURF Rally in Birmingham, served as our host. He said similar rallies were also held in Huntsville, Mobile and nearly 160 other cities across the country. Pinto noted that the great possibility of the “largest civil rights protest in the land” was about to ensue. He also said that “the government we both love and cherish has now issued a decree to violate our most sacred of places, our consciences.” He emphasized that our rights come from God, not the government, and that we will resist any attempt to thwart those rights. He said we will demand our religious freedom.
Then we were treated to a little old fashioned sermonizing from Rev. Bishop Demetrics Roscoe, Pastor of Living Church Ministries, who said he was at this very place after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed. Further, that it was the park where he stood with those fighting for their civil rights was indeed the appropriate place to have the rally because our right to religious freedom is being threatened. He said he had a message for Washington and our elected officials, and he encouraged us to let them know. “We have a king, and that king is the Lord Jesus Christ.” My interpretation was that we don’t need King Obama. Here’s a photo of the speakers. Rev. Bishop Roscoe is to the far left. In a previous comment on another thread, I said I thought the crowd was probably 1/3 black. That may have been a little high – probably more like 20-25%, but please do note the number of black guests/speakers on the stage and the faces in the crowd. This was a diverse group, but you wouldn’t know it from the news reports.***
Courtesy of AlabamaCitizensForLifeonFacebook.
I’m not sure which of the clergy spoke next, but he noted that this was not a Democrat or Republican issue, but an American issue.
Next up was Mrs. Eunie Smith of Eagle Forum who read a statement from The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.2 million members in over 44,000 churches nationwide. This is such a well-written statement that I had a difficult time pulling only one or two quotes from it. Regardless of your beliefs, I urge you to read the statement in its entirety here. Here are just a few nuggets:
This is the very kind of raw exercise of power our Founding Fathers intended to prevent when they passed the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.
Government cannot be allowed to tell people of faith when they can live out the values of their faith and when they cannot.
We will keep our consciences clear before Him [God} despite any threats or punishments. To do anything less would be to declare government God. This we will not do!
For the sake of the church, and for every person of faith, we must stop this soul-crushing power-grab now. If government can require this today, they can, and likely will, require more tomorrow. We will not bow to government or any other power that seeks to insert itself between us and our God.
We refuse to comply with this mandate, and we stand with all those whose consciences will not allow them to comply as well. We call on everyone who believes that God, and God alone, is the Lord of the conscience to join us in stopping the administration from pillaging the soul with this God-defying, unconstitutional assault on religious freedom.
Sometime in the mix, we sang Amazing Grace.
Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN, remarked “much prayer was needed now” that both lawsuits from EWTN and the State of Alabama are now joined with several Catholic dioceses and organizations opposed to the Mandate, and he encouraged us to remain vigilant. “We need to stand up and defend our rights as we’re doing today.” Warsaw also told us that he had written an editorial at the request of the NYT which it published (see here). Warsaw received a letter in response from a self-proclaimed atheist who noted that he was opposed to everything Warsaw and EWTN stood for and proclaimed, but that after he read the editorial, he realized if the government could tell their group what they could and couldn’t believe, they could tell everyone. That atheist stands with the man of faith on this issue.
Oh how happy I am that Cheryl Ciamarra of Alabama Citizens for Life is on our side. I’m hoping I can get a script of her remarks and will add an update if I do. In the meantime, let me just say that she is on fire for life. Ciamarra made no bones about the fact that abortion is evil – 50% of the folks going into an abortion clinic don’t come out. She gave us various statistics about the dangers and consequences of abortions that the media fails to report, and she called them on it. Did you know that pregnancy is now categorized as a disease? I don’t know about other moms, but I was probably close to being the healthiest I’ve ever been when I was pregnant. She said we live in a time where Americans don’t know the truth. Sad to say, but I agree with her.
Our final speaker was “Big” Luther Strange, Alabama’s Attorney General, who is indeed very tall. With a little help from al.com, “This is a battle we’ll be fighting for generations, and I’ll be on the forefront of that battle,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who filed a motion March 22 to join a federal lawsuit initiated Feb. 9 by EWTN Global Catholic Network based in Irondale. Strange said that Alabama is one of 26 states to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. He attended the oral arguments on the law in the U.S. Supreme Court and said he watched the faces of the justices as the gravity of issue began to sink in. “The justices were wary because the law raises the question of the limit of federal power to force citizens to engage in commerce against their will. There was a reason why the federal government’s attorney had a hard time selling that.”
All that in just over an hour. One of the Catholic bishops said a prayer and then led us in the Lord’s Prayer. We closed by singing God Bless America.
*Mrs. Eunie is a warrior for conservatism. I met her at a rally a couple of years ago, and knowing she is with Eagle Forum, mentioned to her that I had gone to Houston with my mother, both sisters, and some friends from church along with 2,000 women from Tennessee back in 1977 when Phyllis Schlafly led the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment. I had just turned 20 and was a junior in college. She was there as well. We’ve been fighting this stuff for a long time.
**EWTN (a Global Catholic Network located just on the outskirts of Birmingham) is the first Catholic organization to file suit to stop the contraception mandate since the final HHS rules were published by the Obama administration on January 20, 2012. The lawsuit was filed on EWTN’s behalf by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham against the HHS, trying to stop the imposition of the contraception mandate which would require nearly all employers, including religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals, to provide health insurance for employees that covers contraception, including in some cases what Catholics consider abortion-inducing drugs. EWTN, with 340 employees, would stand to be fined more than $600,000 the first year for refusing to comply with the requirements that violate its beliefs, according to Warsaw. More here.
***Is it a coincidence that none of the news reports even mention there was a black speaker or black singers or black attendees? Don’t tell me the SCUM (so-called unbiased media – H/T flagstaff) aren’t in lockstep with each other.
I apologize in advance for any errors in my recall. I made some notes as soon as I got back to work and then tried to confirm through various sources, but with that many speakers and remarks, there may be mistakes.