STERLING – Ken and Michelle Boesen wanted to teach their kids how to stand up for themselves.
So the Sterling couple pulled their older children out of school Friday morning and brought all four to the Grandon Civic Center for a rally protesting the Obama administration’s contraception policy.
As part of health care reform legislation, employer-provided health care must provide contraception without charging a copay.
That would include Catholic organizations, which run hospitals, charities and schools across the state and believe that using birth control is immoral.
“It’s important for our kids to be here today to stand up for their religious freedom,” Michelle Boesen said. “I believe the government is overstepping their boundaries in telling people what they can and can’t do.”
Though people of all faith were invited to the event, a Catholic Mass preceded the rally.
“The Mass in our Catholic faith is the most powerful prayer we have, and we need powerful prayers so this mandate does not get put into law,” said the Rev. Bruce Ludeke of Sacred Heart Parish, which organized the event.
The Mass was timed to be done by noon, when other rallies began across the country as part of the “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” movement.
During the event, Luke Vander Bleek, a pharmacist from Morrison, told about his own struggle. Vander Bleek made national news by refusing to fill emergency contraceptives – commonly known as the morning-after pill – and challenging the state law. Last year, after a 6-year legal battle, Vander Bleek prevailed when the Sangamon County Circuit Court ruled in his favor. A ruling on an appeal by the state attorney general’s office is pending.
“I believe it is every citizen’s responsibility to stand up and walk that path,” Vander Bleek said. “Not everyone will have the direct challenge that I did, but some of you know that you have the challenge.”
After the speakers, participants lined East Fourth Street with signs declaring “Christians United for Religious Freedom” and “Lord, Forgive Us and Our Nation.”
One of them was Margaret Brechon, and this was not her first rally.
The Dixon resident has advocated for pro-life policies since 1973. She started the Lee County Right to Life group and headed the Illinois Federation for Right to Life Board for 35 years.
“It’s not about contraception,” she said. “It’s about religious freedom. It’s about forcing people to pay for things that they are morally opposed to.”