Rally in Diag protests Obama mandate

Adam Rubenfire/Daily
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By Giacomo Bologna, Managing Editor
and Adam Rubenfire, Daily News Editor
Published June 10, 2012

American flags, bright balloons and nuns filled the Diag on Friday, withstanding the summer heat to protest a mandate given by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The mandate would require employers who provide health care coverage to also include contraception and sterilization.

About 500 people, including families, religious leaders and students attended the two-hour rally, many carrying signs.

Nick Thomm, the co-founder of Stop HHS — a project petitioning against the mandate, which co-sponsored the event — spoke to the crowd at the event.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the event, Thomm said the rally was pertinent to all Americans who do not want their freedoms to be impinged upon.

“This isn’t a Catholic issue, this isn’t a Christian issue,” Thomm said. “One of the points I made in my talk is that when especially First Amendment liberties are going down a slippery slope, we don’t know what’s going to be next.”

He added that this was the second rally held in Ann Arbor this year, the first of which was held at the Ann Arbor Federal Building. More than 10 other cities across the state of Michigan held similar rallies on Friday, according to Thomm.

He said these rallies were in reaction to the Obama administration’s unwillingness to compromise.

“We have a significant threat to our religious liberty,” Thomm said. “There has been an inflexibility on the part of the Obama administration to even hold dialogue with the U.S. bishops or other faith groups.”

According to their website, Stop HHS is a project of Ave Maria Radio — a Catholic radio station — that is “committed to reversing the decision of the Obama Administration to force Catholic organizations to provide sterilization, contraception, and abortifacient drugs in their health care plans.”

LSA junior Joe Lipa, vice president of Students for Life, reserved space on the Diag for the rally on behalf of his organization, which was a co-sponsor of the event.

“It’s tough always in the summer, where everyone scatters and goes home, because maybe 5 percent of students are taking spring classes,” Lipa said.

However, Lipa said he saw a large amount of young people he recognized in the crowd.

Though Students for Life’s constitution deems itself “non-sectarian,” Lipa said the group’s beliefs are aligned with those fighting for religious freedom.

“Pro-life and religious freedom are not contradicting in any way, especially when the violation of religious freedom requires the providing of abortions,” Lipa said. “That directly impacts our club.”

Considering that the HHS mandate would require hospitals to provide abortions, Lipa said any member of Students for Life is also a supporter of religious freedom.

LSA senior Carmen Allen, former president of Students for Life, attended the rally and said it reflects the open nature of dialogue in America.

“The beauty of the United States is that when the government does something that the people aren’t OK with, the people have the power to make a change to make an influence in that government,” she said. “I think (the rally) is a testament to that, and I want to be part of it.”

Rackham student Kevin Dahlberg also attended the event and said it follows in the rich history the University has of social activism.

“I think the University of Michigan … has a wonderful tradition of protests, of standing up for what is right, for what is reasonable,” Dahlberg said.