A mob of a hundred protesters waving signs and cheering outside of Lownsdale Square? What is this, Occupy? Nope—It's the rally against the Obama administration's health care mandate that would require companies and religious organizations to provide insurance offering contraceptive care to its employers. Dubbed "Stand Up for Religious Freedom," the group of ralliers was made up of an entirely different demographic than those occupying the same streets months ago. Nuns, bishops, pumped-up men in American flag shirts, gaggles of homeschooled children, rosary-swinging churchgoers and a lot of old ladies.
"I came to this country for freedom, religious freedom, and that's not what we're getting," says Sister Therese Improgo of Our Lady of Peace. "It's a disappointment. We're all praying for Obama."
One woman, who asked not to be named, had brought her four homeschooled children out to the rally for a fieldtrip. "I want to show my kids that freedom is important. It's in our First Amendment. I hope that when they grow up, they will finally have this freedom."
Portland's arm of the rally (145 cities participated in a similar event today) was led by "family man" Jason Schmidt, who said he found out about the national movement via Twitter. Just yesterday, he posted a tweet echoing Rush Limbaugh: "Ann Curry is a #bigot, And @SandraFluke is still a #slut. Next."
His opening remarks received applause ("we deserve religious freedom!"), boos ("Obama's health care plan would require us to give out contraceptive drugs and devices, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs") and Amens (everything else).
While the turnout was impressive, local Reverend Chuck Currie says it really is a small percentage of Portland Christians, and shines a bad light on his religion. "This rally is organized by the far fringes of Christians in the country," he says. "It doubt many Portland Christians are in support of this rally. We're far more liberal as a whole." Currie adds that the local Archdiocese expressed his lack of support for the protest early in the week.
"So many Christians support this mandate, including me," says Currie. "It is really misrepresented in the press that it's a battle between religion and the White House. It's a lie that Obama has launched any sort of war against religion."