Religious Freedom Rally in Naples brings out thousands

Religious Freedom Rally in Naples brings out thousands

By Julie Salomone. CREATED Jun 8, 2012

NAPLES-Catholics and people of other religious faith are in Southwest Florida sending the message "government intrusion won't be tolerated." Thousands turned out at the rally on Friday.

Kathleen Hehir says we, as a country, need to focus on faith.

"My message is we need to stick together as a country. We need to bring God back into our lives, period," said Hehir.

She joined hundreds on US 41 and Pine Ridge Road in Naples on Friday to send the message, "No one should be forced to go against their faith."

We're trying to give the message that this is about religious freedom, not about abortion, not about contraceptives. It's about freedom, we want to practice our religion openly," said Jeff Vespo, St. Williams Knights of Columbus.

Concerns are still circling about the recent federal mandate for employers to provide contraceptive care which the Jennings who are both Catholic say is immoral.

"My opinion is no one should have to do what their ethics or faith says they shouldn't do," said William Jennings, resident of Bonita Springs.

"It takes courage and sacrifice to stand up for what you believe," said Bishop Frank Dewane on Friday to the crowd.

Bishop Dewane of the Catholic Diocese of Venice reminded the crowd that this country was founded upon religious liberty and not government intrusion.

Bishop Dewane asked the crowd, "Do you find this mandate acceptable?"
"No," replied hundreds.

Those in the crowd are now reminding others that religious freedom means the right to practice faith without interference.

"What does religious freedom mean to you?"

"It means giving me the choice to belong to whatever church I want whether it's Catholic, Baptist, etc.," said Kathy Jennings, Bonita Springs resident.

The Naples rally is part of a nationwide effort, in which 155 cities and 49 states are holding similar rallies, to ensure religious liberty is restored.

More than 12 lawsuits were filed by 43 Catholic institutions from around the country regarding the federal mandate requiring employers to provide, through their health insurance plans, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives, according to a letter the Bishop wrote to members of the Catholic Church.

Julie Salomone
Fox 4