WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was among those who protested nationwide Friday to draw more attention to the controversial health care mandate that would require contraception coverage.
Americans gathered in more than 160 communities across the country for the "Stand Up" rallies.
Participants want to put an end to the mandate from Health and Human Services that would make employers subsidize birth control and other contraception like Plan B, which many feel is an abortion-inducing drug.
Opponents say this is the first time the government have ever forced Americans to pay for something that goes against their religious beliefs.
"Never before in the history of the United States of America has this government required an employer to provide health insurance that would include taxpayer-subsidized abortion. That would mandate the provision of contraception. That would mandate sterilization and abortion-causing drugs," Bachmann said at a Washington, D.C., rally.
Ashley McGuire, with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, also addressed the crowd. The Becket Fund is fighting the mandate in court for a number of religious institutions.
"These groups are not asking for any special favors," she explained. "They're just asking that they continue to be afforded the same constitutional protections that they've been afforded since the inception of this country."
David Bereit is national director for 40 Days for Life, which holds vigils and fasts outside abortion clinics.
"People of faith and conscience are standing together to say 'no' to this unjust edict and to say, 'We need to protect religious freedoms that made America what it is today,'" he said.
Debbie Schaning and her husband traveled from their hometown of Oconomowoc, Wis., to attend the D.C. rally.
"We're here to help support our Bill of Rights, which gives us the right to religion and to express ourselves in our religious beliefs any way we want," Schaning said. "We don't want that taken away from us."
Bereit suggested the government has awakened a sleeping giant by forcing this mandate on the American people.
"The reality is that 87 percent of people in America self-identify as people of faith," Bereit told CBN News. "And if we the church stand up and make our voices heard, the administration either has no choice but to repeal the HHS mandate or this November face the consequences in the election."
Several hundred people gathered before the speakers' platform on Capitol Hill at the Washington rally.
Rep. Bachmann told them about a painting in the Capitol rotunda of the Mayflower bringing the Pilgrims to America. It shows a flag sailing over the ship that said "God With Us."
"We may not be a large group, but we are enough," Bachmann then said. "We are a Gideon's army that looks to Him for our religious liberty and we will fight on and we will prevail because of those three words. Those words are a prayer and a promise: 'God with us.'"
McGuire assured their purpose is not to deny women contraception. Opponents just don't want to have to pay for it.
"The idea that the Catholic Church is somehow denying women access to contraception by not paying for it is completely new," McGuire pointed out, stating the idea only came up when the birth control mandate was introduced.
Backers of the mandate have also accused opponents of waging a war on women.
"The thing that gets to me most is the idea that opposition to this mandate is a war on women," McGuire said. "Because I'm a woman, and it's a completely inane point."
"Am I waging war on myself?" she continued. "I oppose the mandate, and I oppose it because I'm a woman. Women are just as entitled to religious liberty as men."
Friday's nationwide protests coincided with the 223rd anniversary of James Madison introducing the Bill of Rights to Congress, which begins with the First Amendment guaranteeing Americans religious liberty.