Fortnight for Freedom Issue #13: Catholics walk in Des Moines, Iowa for religious freedom.

The Catholic Diocese of Des Moines sponsored the Independence Celebration Walk and Picnic. Organizers estimated 2,500 people participated.

The crowd gathered at noon at the St. Ambrose Cathedral in downtown Des Moines and walked to the Iowa Capitol. The Most Rev. Richard Pates, bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines, led the group, along with Gov. Terry Branstad, who said he attended the event on his own accord.

The event was a show of solidarity with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom,” which began June 21 and will conclude on Independence Day. The two-week national campaign is intended to draw attention to what they say is the government infringement on their religious freedoms.

One of the key issues is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ directive that nearly all employer health care plans – including Catholic universities and hospitals – must provide birth control and certain other medical services. The church says this requirement would include sterilizations and drugs that could cause abortions. A narrow exemption for churches exists, but moral and religious First Amendment objections continue to be issued by Catholic dioceses, universities, hospitals and charitable institutions now suing the federal government over the matter, as well as other Christian and Jewish groups.

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