Standing Up for Religious Freedom in Trenton, NJ

Posted by Marie Tasy (October 26, 2012 at 9:11 am)

10/20/12 Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally, State House, Trenton,  NJ organized by New Jersey Right to Life

The third “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally on the steps of the New Jersey Statehouse, took place on Saturday, October 20, 2012.  Organized by Marie Tasy, the Executive Director of New Jersey Right to Life, this gathering was one of hundreds simultaneously gathering in cities across the country.

The day began with Holy Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption at 10:30.   Pastor Msgr. Joseph Roldan concelebrated Mass with Fr. Dan Swift, of St. Benedict Church in Holmdel, Fr. Van Hager, a Consolata Father who resides in Somerset, and Fr. Jay Bowden, who is retired of the Diocese of Trenton.

Msgr. Roldan spoke earnestly to those in attendance, welcoming and blessing the crowd on Bishop O’Connell’s behalf.  “We gather for a very special reason, to defend our freedom of religion.  We gather because we are under attack.  Our government has declared war against its own people.  Our society as we know it, and our future society, rest upon your actions today.”  Roldan went further to say “Some in the military might describe this as friendly fire.  But it is different.  Friendly fire is accidental attack on its own, but once known about, it stops immediately and every effort is made to make things right.”

“Today’s attack is not stopping, even though we’ve made it perfectly clear that it is war, and it is damaging.  We have made it known through our US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  If anything, this war has truly united us, opened our eyes to what we, as Christians, as Catholics, will work for.”

“Our government wishes us to believe that we will not be affected, that we can have our freedom inside our walls.  Our freedom is not within four walls, but rather it extends to the four corners.  Let’s not confuse this issue, God has granted us, all of us, the liberty to live our faith.  They (government) give us scenarios that are not free.  Our freedom comes from God alone.  Do not confuse the issue.”

Fr. Roldan then referred to Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks on public television, during the debate, ‘No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, none has to either refer contraceptives, pay for contraceptives or be a vehicle to get contraceptives in any insurance policy.’  Is this a direct lie or ignorance?” he asked, “you decide.”

“We remained silent because we did not think things were changing all that much.  Change was creeping.  Our forefathers were the ones who realized this.  They knew.  We are not subjects of our government, we are not the property of the government.  We are smarter, we are guided by faith and tradition.  We have a tradition here in America, to live free.”

“God is certainly calling us and looking down to see what we will do.  You are not those who have excuses.  You have heard the call.  Our church, our country is up to you.  I’m sure God wants liberty to ring, let’s ring it in and show God we are not afraid, we know God is with us until the end.  Let liberty ring!”

The service ended with the congregation singing “God Bless America!”

From there, demonstrators walked the few blocks over to the State House, where a modest crowd was assembling.  At the height, there was estimated to be about 400 people present. Marie Tasy, Executive Director of New Jersey Right to Life moderated the event and introduced the speakers.

Fr. Peter Stravinskas, lifelong educator and founder of Catholic Answer and Catholic Response, gave a prayer and opening remarks.   “Quite some time ago, observers noticed a disturbing trend when Obama spoke.  There was a change from freedom of religion to freedom of worship.  Freedom of religion is far more than going to a house of worship.  It permeates the totality of a person’s life, and every institution in which they are involved.  It is the freedom not only to believe, but to practice their faith openly and joyfully.  Anything less is a charade that has been served up by every totalitarian government in modernity.  We must know what our God-given rights are and what our Constitutional rights are and proclaim them from every platform.  We must be prepared to fight every such attempt to abridge them, while a fight is still possible.  Failure would mean a failure of both moral courage and civic responsibility. Religious liberty and truth itself are at stake.”

“In a few short days, you will have the opportunity to exercise your natural rights and your sacred obligation to vote.  It has been said that one can’t be a single issue voter, but there are disqualifying issues.  Anyone who promotes evil disqualifies himself to be a leader of a civilized nation.  Anyone who entertains diminishing religious freedom, who does not respect the sacredness of life, who thinks it is civilized to kill a baby in its mother’s womb, right up to the ninth month, is not fit to lead a civilized nation.”

“Pope Benedict XVI has chosen religious freedom as the path to peace.  The Pope was quoted as saying ‘It is inconceivable that citizens should have to violate their faith in order to obey the law.’”

Stravinskas then invited the crowd to watch the film “For Greater Glory,” the story of the assault on Mexican religious freedom, where people died triumphantly with the words, “Vivo Christo Rey,” (Long live Christ the King) on their lips.

He ended with a quote from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “a religion that does not interfere with the secular order will soon see that the secular order will not hesitate to interfere with it.”

Marie Tasy then invited the crowd to extend the rally by tweeting and facebooking the event while in the crowd.  She introduced the next speaker, Marilyn Musgrave, former Congresswoman from Colorado, currently Vice President of Governmental Affairs with Susan B. Anthony List, an organization which helps Pro-Life women get elected to Congress.

Musgrave opened by applauding Lila Rose, a woman who has dedicated herself to building a “culture of life” and ending abortion, who at age 15 founded Live Action, an organization dedicated to investigative journalism to expose abuses in the abortion industry.  Her articles exposed sexual abuse cover-ups, medical misinformation, and willingness to help sex traffickers among staff at Planned Parenthood.

Musgrave pointed out what she said were inaccuracies In President Obama’s campaigning, “Did you hear President Obama say that Planned Parenthood performs mammograms?  That is a lie, not one Planned Parenthood Clinic performs mammograms.  We need to keep getting the truth out.”

“The truth is President Obama paved the way for the largest expansion of abortions since Roe v. Wade, with the funding of abortions in his HHS Mandate.  They (Congress) fell for his phony executive order and allowed ‘Obamacare’ to become law.  Some of us said, ‘Just wait and see what’s coming.’”

“Did you see when Joe Biden lied through his teeth on public television and said, “’I don’t want to force my beliefs on anyone else.’  He is forcing his beliefs on us, by having us fund it.”

Musgrave then praised Jill Stanek, a pro-life nurse from Chicago, who saw a nurse taking a Down’s syndrome baby, who survived an abortion, to a linen closet and leave it there to die.  “She picked him up and held him in her arms for 45 minutes, until it died.  When she approached the administration at Christ Hospital, where she worked, “Christ Hospital,” Musgrave emphasized, she (Stanek) was told that they had broken no law.  She then wrote a piece of legislation that was three lines long, called the Infant Born Alive Act.  Then state senator Barak Obama, (D-IL) spoke on the floor of the state house against that bill.”

“Freedom is not free.  It has been bought at a great price.  We owe a debt we cannot repay, we cannot take this for granted.  We have to tell President Obama we will not stand for our religious freedoms being violated.”

Next, Andrew Taylor, a former Sergeant in the United States Army spoke.   He told the crowd that when he was made an officer, he had to take an oath, one very similar to the one the President of the United States took when he was sworn in.  He then recited it.

“I, Andrew Taylor, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Taylor continued, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  Do you recognize that?  It is our first amendment!”

“Now listen to the fifth amendment, No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property.”

Taylor commented that President Obama has set a new record. He said, “Never has a single piece of legislation offended so many parts of the Constitution at the same time.”

Stationed at Ft. Drum, ten miles from the Canadian border, he had the opportunity to ask Canadians what they thought about their health care.  “Most of them come to America to get their health care.  It’s not working.  Now, we will be surrendering our bodies to government?  I’m here to stand up for life and liberty.”

“Thanks to our forefathers who fought and died, I don’t have to worry about secret police, or disappearing on the way home after talking to you people here today.  Tell your children what it means to be free.”

Taylor ended by quoting Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   This was said in the context of fighting against socialized medicine.

Angela Lanfranchi, a breast surgical oncologist and president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute spoke next.

She said the government is favoring contraceptive methods that they consider most effective.  “It could then happen that if people give in to this, they may be giving to government authorities the ability to regulate their most personal and intimate parts of themselves, their bodies.”

“How many of you are aware that in 2005, the Interagency Research Committee, which is part of the United Nations World Health Organization, classified oral contraceptives as a Group 1 carcinogen for breast and liver?”

“Since 1975, there has been a 440% increase of non-invasive pre-menopausal breast cancer.  One in ten women today is on oral contraceptives.  82% of all women of reproductive age have taken oral contraceptives at some time in their lives.  Why is the president trying to give cancer to women?  Why doesn’t he mandate that women should be told about the natural way.  A woman can only conceive during 100 hours per month.”

“The pill is an abortifacient.  It gives light periods, so you don’t bleed much.  In order to get implantation of an embryo, you need eight and a half millimeters of lining in the uterus. When you take the pill, there are only about five millimeters of lining.  As many of you know, if you take the pill, a certain number of times, a woman will get pregnant, but the embryo cannot implant.  The promotion of oral contraceptives is equivalent to abortion.”

“Planned Parenthood knows if they get enough people on the pill, sooner or later, they will show up for an abortion, which is their main moneymaker.”

“Speak to the women at  They have 6 times greater than average suicide rate.  Abortion also causes breast cancer.  I am sick of performing mastectomies on women aged 25-45.”

Next to speak was Rev. Clenard Childress, Pastor of the New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, NJ, and founder of a group dedicated to teach African Americans the truth about abortion.

“This is NOT about health care, costs, or giving everyone coverage.  This is about control and getting rid of religion.  Costs skyrocket if you promote abortion.  Pregnant women are now asked first thing, have you ever had an abortion.  If the answer is yes, they are immediately considered high risk and costs skyrocket.”

“Obama did not come up with this on his own.  The bill was thousands of pages long.  Many congressmen admitted they did not even read the whole thing.  What I want to know is WHO WROTE IT?”

Childress then quoted Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  “If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”

“Never before has there been legislation to impose upon personal rights.  The Church should be willing to undo this, don’t look to Congress.  Never before has a platform sought to change the social fabric of our nation by adding same sex marriages.  Never before has a political party taken God out of a platform, never before. Did you see that at the Democratic convention?  And when they tried to put God back in…have you ever before heard God’s name be booed? We’ve never been faced with this before.”

“Did you see President Obama campaigning with Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood?  She is touting him as the answer to African Americans. 1,786 African Americans are killed each day, 1,786 African Americans are living with the pain of this choice.  This is infanticide.”

“If we don’t get back to the sacrificial spirit of the early church…under Roman law, a child could be left on the side of the road to die.  Anyone who picked them up would be put to death.  Members of the early church picked them up anyway and raised them as their own, under the threat of death.  We need to stand up today and declare that no one will strip me of conscience.  We have millions depending on us, present and future. We, like the early church, need to end this infanticide.”

Next to speak was Dr. Anna Gomes, a family practice physician in Phillipsburg, NJ.   She said, “We are ambassadors of our faith and medical profession. We have a moral obligation to protect the smallest, weakest and most vulnerable among us.  I come today to say to my neighbors, colleagues and legislators, I come to help build a culture of life.  I encourage you to follow your moral compass.  We need to reestablish the right to life as a fundamental right of our nation, born or unborn.”

Fr. Augustino Torres, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal from Paterson, NJ spoke next.  “I work with the homeless who live on the shores of the Passaic River.  I work with Casa Juan Diego, an outreach to the poor in New York City, and with Corazon Puro, where we teach chastity to youth.”

“I am the son of a U.S. Marine, my grandfather fought in WWII as an engineering sergeant; a member of my family has fought in every conflict in this country.  I decided to join a different army, but the fight is, dare I say, the stakes are much greater.”

“I belong to the august order (of Franciscans) whose blood touched the earth long before any boot touched Tripoli.  I think of how many holy saints went before me.”

“I believe that grace has been ordained from all eternity for this time and it is time to call it down on us.  I can still call on the name of God and not be taken to prison.  1,800 years ago, I speak of the Diocletian persecution of the church, people were asked to conform their behavior, ‘just do a little curtsey,’ but they stuck to their faith. You know as well as I do that we have to stand with our forefathers who stood up yesterday, yesteryear, yestermillenium.”

“I am also the great grandson of a man who was killed in Mexico for standing up for religious freedom.  Unworthy though I be to be a descendant of his, I will not dishonor his memory.”

“In the second book of Revelations, the Lord gives a letter to Smryna, ‘I know you are poor. I know they calumniate you.  Do not be afraid until death and I will give you the crown of life.’  In my travels, I have seen something come alive, arise, coming out of the shadows.  Lord, we need this voice to be heard today.  We will never give up.  It does not matter what we may suffer or endure or what they say, we will never give up.”

“We need to put this in our cheeseburgers; put it into the ketchup we put on our fries and serve it to our children.  Yes, we are going to do this, spread the word, do not be afraid!”

“Our well intentioned government dares to try to serve this up.  If they really knew what they were doing, Lord, have mercy.  But we, who were given the truth, have been blessed to be alive at this time.  If our forefathers were here, they would be standing with us.”

“This mandate is a slap in the face, and as I turn the other cheek, I will say ‘I am here,’ and then, when I turn the other cheek, I will say ‘I am here and I am not afraid.’  I do not understand why social institutions will be forced or fined to betray the name of God, but I do know one thing, I will not comply. There is a whole army of martyrs and saints that will say ‘Right On!’  Eternity has given us the grace to be alive today, let us call on that now.”

Melissa Moschella, graduate of Harvard and Ph.D. from Princeton spoke next.  “Our nation was founded on the basis of religious freedom.  Now, our government is engaging in the same sorts of actions that caused our forefathers to flee: crippling fines and sanctions.  This is not just about Catholics; it’s about all individuals who care about religious freedom.  Once this freedom goes, who knows what freedom will be sacrificed next on the altar of political action.  That the government threatens to fine millions of employers for fidelity to their faith is outrageous.  The government is attempting to limit and redefine religion, by saying you must serve, employ and have as your primary purpose to inculcate religious principles. What about our schools, hospitals and charities?”

Moschella then cited several businesses, and schools which have sued the federal government, including Frank O’Brien and ninety other plaintiffs in Michigan, where “the judge dared to claim that the legislation did not pose a problem to religious faith.  What’s the big deal, you are just paying premiums?” Moschella compared this to a hypothetical law that would require Jewish and Moslem employers to pay for tickets to a pork festival, since eating pork is against their religion.

“That the government threatens to fine millions of employers for fidelity to their faith is outrageous. This mandate is just beginning.  It could well follow that unelected bureaucrats may be able to decide what every worker must buy, or what procedures doctors must perform.”

“To preserve our rights, we need to make our voices heard and stay informed.  Read the Becket Fund, or the Ruth Institute.  Take advantage of social media.  Mass media silences or misrepresents the issues.  We have not lost, even though the other side outspends us.  We need to be generous too, it takes money to fight.”

Moschella closed with a quote from Edward Burke, “All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.”

Rev. Andrew Paton from the Clinton Church of the Nazarene spoke next.

He introduced the case of David Green of Hobby Lobby, Oklahoma City, which began in a garage, but has expanded to 514 stores nationwide.  “Here’s what they say about themselves: ‘The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be, strong values and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.’ All Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sundays.”

“Should a government that is supposed to ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ should such a government make it necessary for Hobby Lobby to have to sue that government in order for Hobby Lobby to honor the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles?  I ask you, will you give me your answer, yes or no?”  The crowd answered, “No!”

Paton then cited a school which is suing the federal government; James Forsythe and the College of the Ozarks.  He spoke of William E. Newland of Hercules Industries, a sheet metal business in Denver, which sued and received a temporary injunction from the Affordable Care Act from Judge John Kane, but “since then has been frowned on in many circles and have been spoken against in the state house.”

“I ask you, should a government that is supposed to make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; should such a government make it necessary for Hercules Industries to have to sue that government in order to fight the Obama administration, that the judge ruled: “disregards religious conscience rights that are enshrined in federal, statutory and constitutional law, yes or no?” The crowd again answered, “No!”

“The National Federation of Independent Businesses gave this reason for opposing Obama-care: ‘We joined the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the healthcare law because we heard from small business owners who were concerned over the costs, the burdens and the impositions that the Affordable Care Act would bring.  They believed it threatened their businesses, employees, families and livelihoods.  We fought to the bitter end to keep their fears from playing out.’”

“Then, they added this: ‘Yet, this case was about something bigger than health care policy, it was about preserving American liberty from the increasingly powerful hand of the federal government.’”

Paton spoke of the Salvation Army.  “Here is their vision statement for health ministry: ‘The Salvation Army seeks to be a significant participant in the delivery of faith-based, integrated, quality, primary health care as close to the family as possible; giving priority to the poor and marginalized members of society.’”

“I ask you today, do you want the federal government to interfere in how the Salvation Army delivers faith-based health care as close to the family as possible, giving priority to the poor? I ask you yes or no?”  The crowd again responded, “No!”

“Obama-care isn’t just a threat to the Catholic or Protestant faith, it doesn’t only undermine Evangelicals or Pentecostals or Charismatics.  The healthcare mandates threaten ALL American religious liberties, but they go even further than that.  As Justice Kennedy put it, the individual mandate ‘changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.’”

“Are you going to take that change without a fight, yes or no?” The crowd answered, “No!” with applause.

“When your grandchildren ask if you just whimpishly went along with the erosion of individual liberties enshrined in our constitution, will your answer be yes or no?”  The crowd shouted, “No!”

“And, when those who foisted these policies on us ask for your vote next month, will your answer be yes or no?” The crowd shouted, “No!”

“Now, I ask you to whisper the answer to my final question, if you are asked at the judgment throne if you were silent when religious liberties were whittled away by an overreaching human government, will your answer be yes or no?”  At this, barely a sound was audible.

Rev. Andrew Paton thanked the crowd and said it had been an honor to speak at this rally.

The next speaker was Suzanne Caruso, the Associate Dean of External Affairs at Liberty University School of Law, a private, Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. Caruso is a native of New Jersey.

She began by declaring, “We are all survivors of ‘Choice.’ Young people get it, they know they are survivors of ‘Choice.’  As such, we all need to do our part.”

“At Liberty University School of Law, we actually require all students to read the Constitution.  Constitutional Law is a required course.  In many law schools today, it is actually an elective!”

“We believe we live in a nation of ‘Rule of Law,’ grounded in western tradition.”

The next speaker was Mari Marroquin, the Public Relations Coordinator of Seton Hall United for Life.  Marroquin represented the pro-life students at Seton Hall, who are rallying against the HHS mandate of the Affordable Care Act. She implored listeners to vote with their conscience next month.  Marroquin delivered her remarks in English, and then again in Spanish.

The final speaker was Bryan J. Dickerson, who served as a Religious Program Specialist 1st Class (Fleet Marine Force) from June 2003 to June 2011 and mobilized and deployed twice to Iraq as a member of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing / II Marine Expeditionary Force. He and his wife Lisa have a daughter Isabella and a son Brendan who died in infancy.

“Back in 2003, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic. That oath is a very serious commitment of oneself to defend our country and our Constitution that includes the possibility of sacrificing one’s own life.”

Three years ago today I was serving at Al Taqqaddum Air Base in western Iraq. Back then, I never expected that in three years I would be standing on the steps of the NJ State House speaking in defense of the Constitution and religious freedom.  I never expected that I would have to defend our Constitution and our individual rights against my own federal government and my own President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.”

“Since the Obama Administration and its accomplices are so hell-bent on violating the religious freedom of employers, who will be their next target?  One likely next target will be the members of our Armed Forces. Fortunately, some members of Congress recognize the threats posed by the Obama Administration to the religious freedom of our service members and so have introduced the Military Religious Freedom Act of 2012.”

“The Military Religious Freedom Act would protect members of our Armed Forces from punishment and discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs. It would protect them from being denied promotions, assignments and training and from negative personnel actions because of their religious beliefs. Equally important, the Military Religious Freedom Act would protect military chaplains from being forced to perform duties, functions and ceremonies that violate their religious principles. For example, the Act would prevent military chaplains from being forced to perform same sex marriages or marriage-like ceremonies in violation of their religious principles.”

“It is a tragic irony that while members of our Armed Forces are putting their lives at risk defending our Constitution and our individual freedoms in Afghanistan and numerous other places around the world, our own President and his accomplices in Congress and the Judiciary are launching some of the most dangerous attacks on our Constitution and our freedom right here at home.  I left the Navy Reserve in 2011 but that does not mean I am no longer committed to defending the Constitution.”

“You do not have to take an oath to defend the Constitution. You don’t have to pick up a rifle and head off to Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, as Americans, we are all obligated to defend our Constitution and our freedoms. If we don’t defend our Constitution and our individual rights, then the Constitution becomes nothing more than a piece of paper.”

After the rally, New Jersey Right to Life Executive Director Marie Tasy commented, “We are so honored to take a leadership role on this important issue to protect religious freedom and oppose the Obama HHS mandate.”

“So many individuals don’t understand that the Obama mandate does not just affect Catholics or people of faith, but all American citizens.  If the government can take away one Constitutional right, then all other rights are in jeopardy.  The U.S. Supreme Court has left this in the hands of the voters.  In the Supreme Court decision ruling Obamacare constitutional, Chief Justice Roberts said, “these decisions are made by elected officials who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them.”

“We’ve been appealing to president Obama all year to rescind the HHS Mandate, but our words have fallen on deaf ears.  Now we’re calling on the voters of New jersey to defend their religious freedom in the voting booth on Election Day.

For more information, please contact Marie Tasy at

View NJRTL Video on the HHS Mandate here

Article by Jennifer Murphy

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