Chicago: Stand Up Ground Zero

Posted by John Jansen (March 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm)

Massive crowd at the Chicago Rally for Religious Freedom

Not to be deterred by terrible weather, a crowd of 2,500 people of all ages descended on Chicago’s Federal Plaza today for the city’s Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally—the flagship location of the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom’s 140 sites.

In the shadow of the building that formerly housed the transition team offices of President Barack Obama, enthusiastic crowds packed the Plaza in the pouring rain and received signs reading “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” and “Stop Obama’s HHS Mandate”, along with handheld American flags. By 11:45 a.m., it was clear that the crowd at the Rally — scheduled to start at noon — was going to far exceed our expectations.

Prior to the official start of the Rally, Pro-Life Action League Executive Director and Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom Co-Chairman Eric Scheidler addressed those already assembled and read off crowd totals he had received from Rally Captains in East Coast cities, where rallies were then in progress—e.g., Cincinnati: 500, New York: 900, Detroit: 1,000—all of which were greeted with enthusiastic cheers.

GSA Refuses to Turn Power On

At about 11:50, the Rally was dealt a potentially major setback: electrical power to the Plaza was cut, meaning that our P.A. system was inoperable.

It’s unclear whether this was due to weather-related issues or if a federal employee willfully decided to turn the power off, but one thing is clear: the General Services Administration—the Federal Government agency that granted us the permit to use the Plaza in the first place—refused to turn the power back on.

But we were not about to let a Federal Government agency stifle our Rally’s protest of the Federal Government’s HHS Mandate, so we quickly switched to Plan B: Eric Scheidler’s bullhorn.

With a crowd of 2,500 people, a bullhorn is certainly not ideal, and not everyone was able to hear the Rally speakers who had to use it.

But meanwhile, one of our veteran pro-life activists borrowed 100 feet of extension cord from a nearby construction crew on their lunch break and talked to the supervisor at the Post Office adjacent to the Plaza and asked if we could plug in there.

The supervisor graciously agreed, and around 12:30 p.m., our P.A. system was working once again, and the crowd responded with enthusiastic cheers.

Teens at Chicago Rally for Religious Freedom

By this time, a crowd of hundreds from Chicago’s St. John Cantius Parish—many of whom were members of the Crusaders for Life teen pro-life club, famous for their pro-life flash mob videos—had arrived at the Rally carrying dozens of yellow “LIFE” balloons, some of which were tied together to make a giant “floating Rosary”.

Speakers Underscore the Need to Fight the HHS Mandate

The opening invocation at the Rally was delivered by Father Thomas Loya of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church. Following the invocation, each of the speakers at the Chicago Rally for Religious Freedom spoke boldly about the serious dangers posed by the HHS Mandate.

Mary FioRito, Executive Assistant to Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, noted in her remarks that Catholic institutions have been providing health care for centuries without providing contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, and wondered if she somehow missed the “crisis” that now warrants that they now be provided.

Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) pulled no punches and said those of us who oppose the HHS Mandate should be prepared to go to jail for our beliefs. He also underscored the crucial importance of the November elections, as did Mary-Louise Hengesbaugh, former Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Office Director and currently a board member for Illinois Citizens for Ethics (ICE) PAC.

Hengesbaugh also said she was deeply offended by the HHS Mandate, because it amounts to the Federal Government telling women what they need.

Dr. Anthony Caruso, an OB/Gyn physician at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, said he feels like a “a pawn in this Chess game being played in Washington.” He warned about the dangers the HHS Mandate poses to medical professionals in particular, saying, “Doctors who wish to practice medicine are soon going to have to leave their conscience and religious faith at the door of their offices and provide full services”—including abortion and contraception.

Father Sammie Maletta—whose stirring homily on the HHS mandate went viral on YouTube, having received over 700,000 views—quoted the first 16 words of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) and spoke on the radical dangers the HHS Mandate poses to it.

Father Stewart Ruch, an Anglican priest at the Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois, spoke about his church’s opposition to the HHS Mandate, saying, “When you wake up the Anglicans, you know you’ve got a crisis on your hands.”

Also speaking at the Rally were:

  • Sheila Liaugminas, Host, “A Closer Look with Sheila Liaugminas”, Relevant Radio
  • Pastor Steven Anderson, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Chicago
  • Dr. Joronda Crawford, Co-Director, Pro-Life/Pro-Family Coalition
  • Fr. Richard Simon, Pastor, St. Lambert Parish, Skokie
  • Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL, 3rd Congressional District)
  • Brian Burch, President, Fidelis Center for Law and Policy
  • Joe Morris, President, Lincoln Legal Foundation; Past President, B’nai B’rith in the Midwest
  • Peter Breen, Executive Director, Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center

Rally Participants Receive Their “Marching Orders”

To close out the Rally, Eric Scheidler gave the Rally participants their “Marching Orders”, which include calling the U.S. Capitol switchboard and ask their Congressman and Senators to support legislation protecting religious freedom and stop the HHS Mandate, and printing off copies of the HHS Mandate Fact Sheet [PDF] from the Rally website to pass out to others.

When Eric announced that the Chicago crowd was the the largest crowd of any Rally site that had reported thus far, the 2,500 Rally participants erupted in applause.

The Rally ended with the signing of Amazing Grace—the standard way of closing a Pro-Life Action League event.

Clearly, despite obstacles, the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom’s flagship event in Chicago was a great success.

Posted in 3/23 Rally Reports. Follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

34 Responses to “Chicago: Stand Up Ground Zero”

  1. rosemary says:

    If the Chicago papers do not post this news, I hope that these 2500 + will ask why not?? Is it the same reason that the power was shut off? I am keeping you all in my prayers.

    March 23rd, 2012 at 6:47 pm
  2. LoveGodAndAsHeLoved says:

    Thanks be to God for Chicago’s rally bringing glory to God! We applied for a permit at the federal courthouse in Madison WI on Thursday and were under their roof on their outside plaza on Friday for the rally. They had outside outlets, we had power, they were kind to us. Thank you, Chicago, for your great first amendment rights/pro-life witness!!!

    March 23rd, 2012 at 7:01 pm
  3. Lisa Pulkrabek says:

    Thumbs up for 2500+ religious patriots in Chicago! You people ROCK. No electricity, no problem for you all. Congrats on your quick fix by borrowing the power from construction. Our rally in Bismarck ND was a success as well with approx. 700 people standing together for the truth. Waiting for the news at 10pm to see how much coverage we get. No matter, God saw each one of us across this great nation today. Keep the faith, our work only starts now.

    March 23rd, 2012 at 7:03 pm
  4. Mitch says:

    There were 1000+ for the Rally in Rockford, IL. The Mass preceding was overflow in the Church.

    March 23rd, 2012 at 7:53 pm
  5. Bee says:

    I was at the Chicago rally today…it was raining hard when I arrived and a lady near me recalled Fatima, where the people gathered were soaked by rain, but dried later by a miracle. The rain came down hard until about 11:55 and then tapered off and by 12:05 stopped completely. Everyone was wet, and no miracle of the sun occurred, but no one left. The pro-life teens were GREAT and lead chants such as, HEY HEY, HO HO, HHS HAS GOT TO GO! Every age group was represented there, from babes in arms to grandmas in wheelchairs, dads and moms, priests and nuns, teens and young adults. Many passing motorists honked their horns in support. Every speaker spoke with passion and conviction and inspired us to action. When we learned the reason the microphones were not working was because the power was cut, it seemed we were called to suffer just a little bit for Our Lord. One lady nearby called 311 (our local city services number) and complained loudly to turn the power back on! What I took away from the rally was that there are many, many people of all faiths and even no faith who are sure this encroachment of our religious freedom is not tolerable. God bless Stand Up For Religious Freedom, and the United States of America!

    March 23rd, 2012 at 8:10 pm
  6. Lucy says:

    Take a stand

    March 23rd, 2012 at 8:31 pm
  7. Michele says:

    Congratulations!! The Washington, D.C. event had at least 1,000 people rallying at the Obamacare HQ @ the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Rev. Patrick Mahoney (Christian Defense Coalition) led and orchestrated a spectacular event with superb speakers: Lila Rose (Live Action), Kristan Hawkins (Students for Life), Star Parker (C.U.R.E.), The Beckett Fund, Father Marcel, Pastor Hunter and others. They were heard loud-and-clear!

    March 23rd, 2012 at 9:03 pm
  8. Avila Power says:

    Congratulations to the people of America from me in Australia.
    This is great and very reassuring that we all stand up for our religious freedom, that God has given to us. May the crowds get bigger and bigger and may Obamacare disappear into the gutter where it belongs. May God bless you all.

    March 23rd, 2012 at 9:10 pm
  9. Kim says:

    We attended the Cincinnati Rally. It was so uplifting to see many families gathered to take a stand. Several of our wonderful priest were also in attendance. At some points during the rally the rain was pouring but no one ran for cover but persevered in prayer. Many people came forward to volunteer for future rallies, to register voters, and to hold pray vigils in their parishes. Thanks to all those who organized these events. How great to be united in prayer across our nation!

    March 23rd, 2012 at 9:15 pm
  10. Andrea S. says:

    We were at the rally in North Dakota where over 700 people gathered on the Capitol grounds to stand up for our religious freedom. (Keep in mind the whole state of ND has about 650,000 people in it so our numbers were quite good!) It was inspiring to be with so many people who feel as we do and are not afraid to have their voices heard. And to know that people all over this great country were doing the same!

    Funny how the few national news stories I heard or read about the rallies throughout the US suggest that “hundreds” of people showed up. Yeah, more like hundreds of thousands.

    March 23rd, 2012 at 10:08 pm
  11. Daniel says:

    The rally was excellent and well-attended. The rain was no detriment! (My wife and I met there, unexpectedly, a number of devout Catholic friends and, with hope, made new ones.) I have posted on my blog a slideshow of photos from the rally. I will post more from the rally tomorrow.

    March 23rd, 2012 at 11:13 pm
  12. Daniel says:

    For the slide show of the rally go to and click on the “NewsPhotos” tab.

    March 23rd, 2012 at 11:13 pm
  13. luz says:

    There were around 500 present in Jax, FL rally. It was very uplifting that people of various denomination came together. For sure God is pleased that we have unity when our faith is being attacked. A wake up call to all concerned. Let us work harder.. .Pray, Fast and Almsgiving. God bless America.

    March 24th, 2012 at 12:47 am
  14. francis says:

    In general, the rally was awesome and truly reflected the sentiments of the people but I did not appreciate how some of the staff handles the distribution of the pins, flaglets, etc. even those sign up sheets… they just passed on me…is it because I am a person of color?

    March 24th, 2012 at 7:16 am
  15. NJ Kim says:

    So grateful my hometown of Chicago had such a fabulous turnout! I attended the rally in Trenton, NJ which was put together in less than a weeks time but you’d never know it! Such wonderful speakers, and a wonderful mix of people in the crowd – babies, toddlers, kids, HS and college kids, parents, grandparents, priests, nuns, Knights of Columbus lining the street with their flags… Such an inspiring, affirming moment. I wish it was better attended, though. The weather was gorgeous.

    March 24th, 2012 at 9:50 am
  16. Robert Hernandez says:

    I was crushed not to be able to attend. But I did fast and prayer during Friday. Blessed be the Name of Jesus and Mary and with their help and guidance we’ll continue the fight against the culture of death!

    March 24th, 2012 at 10:17 am
  17. M. Helena Kassler says:

    Since I am not able to go to the rally is there some way that a small community can show their support?

    March 24th, 2012 at 12:50 pm
  18. Daniel says:

    Helena, you can pray and fast, just as Robert. H. said he did because he could not attend the rally. It takes all of us, working, praying, and fasting, doing what we can do. Supporting and participating spiritually include doing the duties of our state in life and offering them to God for the success of the rally and its message. Also, if you can’t join others in person at the rally, make a holy hour, especially at a church or monastery that offers exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. If you can’t get to anywhere for a Eucharistic holy hour, you can always make one at home with your rosary and Bible. Blessings!

    March 24th, 2012 at 1:26 pm
  19. Daniel says:

    Francis, I too am a person of color and get overlooked often. The only way to deal with it is to be assertive and request what you want. People make many wrong assumptions but do respond to kindly promptings to change their minds; I’ve found this to be true of large gatherings of Catholics and other Christians. “Be the first to love,” as Chiara Lubich and her Focolare say.

    March 24th, 2012 at 1:31 pm
  20. The Rev. BT Ball says:

    Francis and Daniel –
    Hey, I was wearing my clerical collar and a nice black suit and they passed right by me! I really wanted one of those pins too. The young lady who had the pins looked right at me and she seemed a bit nervous and shy. I know it is easy for me to say “don’t read anything into it”, but if you were overlooked for a sinful reason count it as joy that your treasures are in heaven. I’d rather think that there were some really young people, nervously attempting to serve and they tried their best. Let us put the best construction on things and try as best we are able to explain them in the kindest way.

    March 24th, 2012 at 5:51 pm
  21. Daniel says:

    Fr. Ball, Sorry about your being overlooked. Yes, shyness is also a significant factor, too, in interpersonal relations.

    March 24th, 2012 at 8:22 pm
  22. Daniel says:

    Hear Eric Scheidler’s speech at

    March 24th, 2012 at 10:37 pm
  23. Jim AKA Roadie says:

    Well, Chicago, I guess you beat us here in St Paul where the estimate was 2,200! We were blessed with beautiful weather, great speakers and a complete lack of media coverage and also no political representation. Imagine that!

    March 25th, 2012 at 4:09 pm
  24. Colleen Barry says:

    Bravo Chicago. Religious Institutions and HC have always complemented each other. Everything, concerning these institutions and HC has always and continues to work fine. WHY DOES THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAVE TO ATTACK Religious Institutions. Everyone NOW criticizing Religious Institutions didn’t write, articles or even talk about religious institutions have a bad affect on our countries HC, It is the Obama Administration that was created this issue. NEVER was an issue. I say continue the Status Quo on our Religious Institutions connections to HC

    March 26th, 2012 at 2:39 am
  25. Laura says:

    These people are at best, uninformed, at worst, fools. They are shoving religion down my throat. I am an atheist who, I thought, was living in a nation which allowed everyone to practice (or not in my case) any religion they choose. President Obama is concerned about access to vital health care for all women and has no desire to interfere in whatever religion one follows.

    I attended the Rally for Reason gathering in DC this past weekend. A wonderful convocation of persons who choose to use reason rather than religion to figure life out.

    I stand by my president. Our president will win another 4 years. I hope these misguided individuals at this rally can handle that. Go Obama in 2012.

    March 26th, 2012 at 8:59 am
  26. Joanna says:

    @Laura. I fail to see how they are “shoving religion down your throat” when they are taking away my “freedom” to practice my beliefs and follow my conscience. If anything they are shoving other people’s “beliefs” down my throat. If you consider us pro-lifers “uninformed” maybe you should consider yourself the same. There are a plethora of other places you can go to get you contraceptives, abortions and abortion inducing pills, don’t come to a Catholic institution looking for it, why should we be forced to offer something or partake in something that goes against everything we believe in, isbt that what you are accusing us of doing? Seems to be the other way around to me.

    March 27th, 2012 at 7:46 am
  27. Laura says:

    Joanna – from what the statistics say, almost all Catholic women at some point in their sexually active lives, use modern methods of birth control so don’t lecture me on the sanctity of Catholic beliefs. And a fair number of you support the death penalty. Talk of hypocrisy.

    I left the Catholic church moons ago because I finally realized we needed to move to the present century. Your church is nothing but a bunch of old men dictating what we should believe. Along w/ a strong whiff of myogyny. The business called the Catholic church has no idea what living the life of Jesus Christ means.

    March 27th, 2012 at 8:54 am
  28. Angela S. says:

    The “98% of all Catholic women use birth control” is false and has been proven to be false. It is a statistic that the administration put out there to muddy the waters. And, if the “98%” is true, then I must know all 2% of us that don’t use it. 😉 At any rate, this statistic is irrelevant. If 98% of people commit adultery, it does not make adultery any less wrong.

    At any rate, I commend all of the people standing up for religious liberty. Thank you so much for taking to the streets. It is not at all surprising that these rallies were not covered in the media. But we know you did it anyway, and surely God sees your actions as well. God bless you!

    March 27th, 2012 at 1:00 pm
  29. Laura says:

    Please provide your statistics and your source for such Angela. Otherwise, you are as “bogus” as other who quote statistics.

    Keep your dirty religion out of the public square. There is nothing wrong about women (and men may I add) spacing births or having none at all.

    March 27th, 2012 at 2:02 pm
  30. Joanna says:

    Angela I must know all of that 2% as well!

    Laura, I’m going to try and put this as simply as possible… The 98% is completely bogus… (

    And honestly, regardless of what the real percent is, just as Angela said, it does not make it right or ok.

    What needs to be pointed out is that the seriousness of this mandate has nothing to do with abortion or birth control or even the Catholic Church, what is does have to do with is our religious freedom is being taken away. Why does the Catholic Church seem to be center stage with this? Simply because she is the most outspoken. Her beliefs have been around for over 2,000 years, why would she change them now? She shouldn’t, and she won’t. It should also be known that many other religious institutions (even those who would actually benefit from this mandate) have backed the Catholic Church, knowing that religious freedom is truly at stake. Here is another good article to check out, to prove this is a religion free issue (

    Finally, to talk about the “hypocrisy” that you mention, you are just as hypocritical as the rest, something I already pointed out to you previously. Besides, you are judging the ENTIRE Catholic Church based off of a few people you might know who are on birth control or who might support the death penalty. And maybe you should see what the Church REALLY teaches about the death penalty before you make that accusation. (See CCC 2267)

    March 28th, 2012 at 6:41 am
  31. Ruth Institute Blog » Religious freedom rallies says:

    […] Organizers hope it was only the beginning. They are indeed resourceful. […]

    March 30th, 2012 at 6:02 pm
  32. Where Men Are Free | The Papist says:

    […] Even though I could not attend a rally, I offered up my prayers and looked at all of the pictures that people across the nation posted of their cities’ events. It is inspiring to see the pictures and to read some of the reports. […]

    April 2nd, 2012 at 12:06 am
  33. Media AWOL on a pro-life Chicago ‘Flagship’ event on 3/23 « Nancy J. Thorner says:

    […] Also reported is that the Chicago Rally ended with the singing of “Amazing Grace” which is the standard way of closing a Pro-Life Action League event. […]

    April 13th, 2012 at 1:18 pm
  34. zero2inf says:


    […]Chicago: Stand Up Ground Zero « Stand Up for Religious Freedom[…]…

    May 6th, 2012 at 8:45 pm