WASHINGTON - Controversy is continuing over President Obama's health care mandate that will require most employers to pay for insurance plans that offer free contraceptive services.
On Friday, thousands of Americans gathered in 140 rallies across the nation to protest the measure.
"The mandate is a polite, politically correct word for 'force,'" Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition said. "If you don't obey the mandate, you face civil sanctions and eventually criminal sanctions."
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represents a large number of religious institutions that have filed suit because of the birth control mandate.
Each of these organizations is facing a crippling six-figure fine. That's the price of following your faith in America," Beckett Fund member Lori Windham said.
"It would force employers, any employers, including a pro-life employer like myself, a Catholic woman like myself, to purchase insurance for my employees, which includes abortifacient drugs, drugs that kill unborn children," added Lila Rose, president of the Live Action. The group is responsible for exposing illegal activity at several Planned Parenthood clinics.
Syndicated columnist Star Parker was the main speaker at a rally in Washington, D.C.
"I, for a long time, have been concerned about killing that goes on in the womb," she told attendees.
"When you start seeing that killing extended to where others have to participate, they're forced by government to participate, I wanted to be involved," she continued. "And I'm honored to be here."
Protestors held signs with messages like "I Won't Pay for Murder" and "Tyranny Disguised as Healthcare."
Some blamed President Obama.
"He has no right to make us pay for something we don't believe we can give," said Melanie Baker, contributing writer for Human Life International.
National organizers say there were more of these Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies than iniially expected -- and more people attending.
"My original permit here was for only 50 people. I had to amend it to 750 people," Mahoney said.
Attendees note that this isn't about denying access to contraceptives to anyone, but objecting to being forced to pay for such services.
As one rally sign put it, "Your birth control - $9.00 a month. My religious freedom - priceless."
**Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute talked more about the rallies on the CBN News weeknight news program, "Newswatch," Mar. 23.
*Published Mar. 23, 2012.