Protesters gather for Religious Freedom rally - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Protesters gather for Religious Freedom rally

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PHOENIX -

Activists gathered in downtown Phoenix as part of a nationwide demonstration Friday.

They rallied in support of religious freedoms and against a federal health care mandate that requires religious employers to provide birth control coverage.

These rallies took place in over a hundred cities across the nation. People gathered at noon outside their federal courthouses. Folks at the rally in downtown Phoenix said this is not a war on women, but a war on religious freedom.

Long time birth control critic and Catholic Heidi Jirous drove over an hour to get to the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix. She brought her five children to the "stand up for religious freedom" rally.

"It's important for religious liberty to inform our children what's going on," said Jirous.

Jirous attended so her kids will have religious freedom. She was among hundreds of Christians who peacefully protested president Obama's health and human services mandate.

This protest was one of 164 happening around the country. Phoenix rally captain Ann Swaziek organized it.

Today's rally featured speakers like Catholic Diocese Bishop Thomas Olmsted.

"It is not only our duty. It is our right," he said.

Demonstrators believe the mandate affects all religions because it would obligate businesses to pay for birth control regardless of their moral beliefs.

"If somebody does have a problem with that, they should not be mandated to provide it," says Elma Engel.

But Planned Parenthood in Phoenix says this mandate is a great advance for women's healthcare. Birth control, they say, is a preventive measure and is often a medical necessity for women.

Elma Engel doesn't so much mind birth control, but she strongly opposes abortion. That's why she attended the rally.

"It's wrong that someone who doesn't believe in the murder of unborn babies is made to cover that horrid procedure."

A recent Fox News poll shows 60 percent of people feel the mandate is a violation of human rights while only 36 percent find it acceptable.

The mandate is set to pass in less than eight weeks. Several lawsuits have been made against it.

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