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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Catholic Conference plans rally for religious freedom in Topeka on Friday

The Wichita Eagle

The Kansas Catholic Conference will rally for religious freedom on Friday in Topeka.

Part of the “Fortnight for Freedom,” sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the rally is intended to promote religious freedom as well as protest the mandate requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage that is part of President Obama’s health care law.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the Affordable Care Act today.

Michael Schuttloffel, executive director for the Kansas Catholic Conference, calls it a coincidence that the rally is scheduled for the day after the court’s ruling. Regardless of the court’s decision, the rally will go ahead as planned, Schuttloffel said.

“The mandate, while the most high-profile attack on religious freedom, isn’t the only one,” Schuttloffel said. “The theme remains salient regardless of what happens.”

Ann Walden, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish in Wichita, plans to attend the rally with her oldest daughter.

“We want to raise awareness about the issue,” Walden said. “It’s not just about birth control; it’s about religious freedom.”

Bonnie Toombs, director of the Respect Life Social Justice Office in the Wichita Diocese, said she is going because she is morally opposed to the mandate. She doesn’t know what the Supreme Court will decide but doesn’t think it will affect the turnout. Organizers expect more than 2,000 people from across Kansas to attend.

All four Kansas dioceses are providing buses for some participants, and the Wichita Diocese plans to send 10 busloads of people. Dodge City is planning to send three buses, Salina five and Kansas City 19.

“It will either be a celebration or a protest,” Toombs said, depending on the court’s decision.

The rally is scheduled from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on the South lawn of the State Capitol. An assortment of speakers are scheduled to attend the rally, including the bishops of the four Kansas dioceses, Gov. Sam Brownback, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and keynote speaker Cathy Ruse, senior fellow for Legal Studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Prayers, scripture readings and readings of the nation’s founding documents will also take place.

The event is open for anyone to attend, regardless of their religion.

Reach Sarah Tucker at 316-268-6514 or

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