NEW ULM - A small group of devout religious followers from New Ulm held an impromptu protest march on the Brown County Courthouse on Friday to show their solidarity for the national "Stand Up For Religious Freedom of Religion" rally event.
The group marched in prayer or silent contemplation from the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity down to Broadway, then across and up to the Brown County Courthouse. The marchers carried signs and wore T-shirts that read, "Where is the freedom, Mr President?" The group concluded their march by gathering in front of the courthouse for prayer.
The focus of the march was on protesting the recent controversy over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate, part of the new federal health care reform law, which required nearly all employers to include coverage of birth control in their health insurance plans. The mandate exempted churches, but it included religious-affiliated businesses such as universities and hospitals. In mid-February, President Barack Obama sought to quell some of the controversy by modifying the mandate to require health insurance companies to cover the birth control cost for religious-affiliated organizations. The change allowed women in the organizations to still have access to birth control services, but it didn't make the organizations directly pay for the services.
The march was intended to show support for 140 larger protest marches in major cities across the country to vocalize anger over what the marchers consider a violation of their religious freedom. The larger protests were primarily organized by the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League and the Michigan-based Pro-Life Society.
Margaret McHugh, one of the local marchers, said they were protesting because they felt employees at religious-affiliated institutions were being forced to violate their religious conscience if they are required to provide certain contraceptives, like aborticants.
"It would be like requiring one of our Jewish neighbors to eat pork," said McHugh.
Linda Reising, another participant in the march, said they didn't want the government to interfere with their freedom of conscious and religious freedom.
"We wanted to make our statement to the President that we want to follow our religious teaching without interference from the government," said Reising.
Reising said they don't have any other events planned yet, but the group would be interested in organizing a large event in the future.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.