Column: National speakers headline religious rally in Topeka

Church and State
Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

by Michael Schuttloffel

On Feb. 17, the Kansas bishops will be partnering with other faith-based organizations to host a Rally for Religious Freedom inside the state Capitol building in Topeka. The rally will run from noon to 1 p.m. inside the rotunda area on the second floor.

Attendees will hear from the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, one of the nation’s leading experts on federal, state and local laws that threaten the ability of Americans to live their faith in their daily lives.

Barronelle Stutzman will be speaking to her firsthand experience with just such a law. Stutzman is a great-grandmother who runs a floral shop in the state of Washington.

One of her longtime customers asked her to provide the floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding to another man. Stutzman politely declined because that kind of ceremony violates her Christian beliefs about marriage. She had been selling flowers to this gentleman for nine years and cherished him as a friend. Moreover, Stutzman had had openly gay employees working at her shop at various times, which was not a problem for her.

The problem only came when she was asked to use her creative skills to help celebrate a same-sex wedding, a ceremony fundamentally in conflict with her religious beliefs. That is when she felt that she would be crossing the line into participation in an activity and behavior that her religious beliefs told her were immoral. Only at that point did she object.

After she explained that she could not participate because of her religious beliefs, she recommended other florists to the man making the request and hugged him before he left the store. The attorney general of the state of Washington is now prosecuting her for discrimination.

Pastor Hernan Castano will also be speaking at the rally. Pastor Castano is one of the “Houston Five” pastors who had their sermons subpoenaed by the city of Houston during the debate over a controversial city ordinance similar to the law that ensnared Stutzman.

The president of the March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, will be discussing conscience rights, which of course has serious ramifications for the pro-life cause. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a litigant in the lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services mandate and a compelling speaker on the subject of religious freedom. Governor Brownback will also be offering his remarks.

A very large crowd is expected, so please arrive early to get through security. For information about parking, visit the website.

Remember that your being at the rally is of incredible importance. Even if you are too far back to see or hear, your presence alone will help impress upon lawmakers the fact that people of faith are not going down without a fight.

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