‘‘This’’ is the outcry against a mandate announced in January by the Obama administration requiring, as part of health-care reform, that most religious employers provide coverage of contraception and sterilization, services that people such as Bremberg view as sinful.
As the 32-year-old Alexandria mom stood in the sunshine on the plaza, similar scenes were playing out in 140 other U.S. cities, generated by what ralliers see as a ramping up of government disdain for their understanding of Christianity.
While the ralliers loathe the mandate, they know it has galvanized them in a way nothing else has in years. That’s no small thing for a movement that has become less cohesive since the years of Jerry Falwell and even since George W. Bush.
And with planned protests approaching as the health-care law goes next week to the Supreme Court, some see an opportunity to enliven religious influence in socially conservative causes. That goal can feel elusive under a president who was the first to acknowledge “non-believers” in his inaugural address. Obama also has said that while America has a large Christian population, it is not a Christian nation.
The sense among ralliers that Christianity is under threat was an extension of the one that permeates Bremberg’s daily routine. For weeks, her e-mail inbox has been populated with messages from Catholic schools and hospitals warning about the mandate. Her Facebook page gets 20 posts a day related to it.
That torrent cranks up a steady flow in her life of a feeling that Christianity as she understands it is no longer the dominant Western worldview. As a child, she heard her father bemoan the removal of nuns as teachers at his local public school. As an adult, she and her friends share articles about a British couple disqualified from being foster parents because of their anti-gay views or a New York law banning the use of public schools for religious worship services.
Like others on the plaza Friday, Bremberg, a home-schooling parent of four young children and a former political staffer, could not name any direct examples of a vanished freedom in her own life or those of her friends. But the mandate, they say, threatens in a new way to take away religious liberties.
“It hasn’t happened yet,” said Mary Vigil, a D.C. nurse angry that the Obama administration last year rescinded a Bush-era regulation that expanded the rights of health-care workers to refuse to provide care they oppose on moral or religious grounds.
“There are so many places I’d like to look for work where I wouldn’t be allowed to practice,” Vigil said as the crowd behind her chanted, “We won’t comply!”