About 200 Catholics in Tyler attended a special Mass on Thursday night as part of the Catholic Bishops of the United States' “Fortnight for Freedom” nationwide initiative — a call to pray and peacefully protest the health care mandate issued in January.
“We're here tonight because we love God and we love our country,” said the Rev. Anthony McLaughlin, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “The freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience are most American ideas.”
On Aug. 1, the Obama administration's health care mandate that requires employers to cover contraception as part of their health insurance goes into effect. The Catholic Church teaches against the use of contraception, although a majority of Catholic women have used it, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“We aren't here to demonize the president or the administration,” Mc-Laughlin said.
The Fortnight of Freedom began Thursday, the day Catholics recognize the Feast of the Martyrs honoring John Fisher and Thomas More. The two saints stood up to King Henry VIII in England when he decided to separate from the Catholic Church after it refused to declare his second marriage invalid.
The prayer and protest initiative ends July 4.
Some fear the consequences if a solution isn't reached.
“I'm really concerned,” said Liz Oliver, a member of the Cathedral who attended Thursday's Mass. “I think the government is pushing the church to take actions we'd rather not take to stand on principle. If the government continues, the church may shut down the services they provide instead of responding to pressure. That could be devastating. I'm here to offer whatever prayerful support I can.”
The most recent Supreme Court case dealing with religious liberty was last year's Hosanna vs. Tabor, which protected a Lutheran school's right to hire and fire teachers whose jobs include religious instruction.
McLaughlin said the issue will be mentioned at daily Mass for the remainder of the two-week initiative.
“In these two weeks of prayer, reflection and education, all Americans are invited to join in a thoroughly American rededication to the principles of religious freedom,” he said.