By Murvin H. Perry
Despite a small windy squall and the threat of a thunderstorm, more than 250 people gathered in a Johnson City park on June 21 to take part in a Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally. They were there in protest of the Health and Human Services mandate that all employers must provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs, despite traditional religious beliefs.
The rally was organized cooperatively by representatives of St. Mary Parish in Johnson City, the Holston Baptist Association, and Antioch Baptist Church. It was supported by Heritage Baptist Church, the Knights of Columbus, Hosanna Fellowship Church, Tennessee Right to Life, Greater Kingsport Pro-life Volunteers, and 40 Days for Life.
Highlighting the rally were remarks by Congressman Phil Roe of Johnson City, who told the audience that the Affordable Care Act was a serious infringement on constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion and a clear threat to other First Amendment rights.
Other speakers included state Reps. Matthew Hill and Dale Ford; Julianne Wiley of St. Mary’s Respect Life Committee; Rebecca Ketchie, Alliance Defense Fund attorney; and Peggy English and Lisa Morris of Silent No More, a support group of women who have suffered from abortion.
A color guard provided by the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus of East Tennessee posted the U.S. flag and flags of Tennessee and the Diocese of Knoxville and led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Members of the organizing committee included Ms. Wiley; Tracy Teal of the Holston Baptist Association; the Rev. Pete Tackett, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church; Louise Jennings of Kingsport Pro-life Volunteers; Michelle Gantz of Tennessee Right to Life; and Sheila Bedford, Jeanette Halkowitz, Genae and Steve Helmbrecht, Gail Taylor, Deacon Mike and Emma Jacobs, Geri Kistler, and Murv Perry of St. Mary Parish.