February 16, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Six pro-life activists, including one Catholic priest, were arrested this morning in front of the White House while holding a peaceful prayer vigil in protest against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate. They were released shortly thereafter, after paying a $100 fine.
Fr. Denis Wilde, the Associate Director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews that by their arrests the protesters hoped to send a “wake-up call” to President Obama that opposition to his mandate is not going away.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney being arrested this morningThe six were arrested on a charge of “disobeying a lawful order.” The priest explained that while it is legal to hold protests in front of the White House, protesters are not allowed to remain stationary, including if they kneel down and pray.
“Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested,” Father Wilde said. “We knew that was the risk when we gathered today, and we will do it again regardless of the risk. What people of faith – of every faith – need to do now is stand with us.”
In addition to Fr. Wilde those arrested were Jeff White and his teenage daughters Joanna and Jayne White of Survivors, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, and a local pro-lifer named John Randy Corish.
Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews.com: “The men arrested today, including our Associate Director, reveal the fact that the response to the unjust Obama mandate cannot be limited to the Courts, the Congress, and the press. It must bring us to the streets of America.”
“Over the years, the other side in this battle has tried to make the public afraid of us by painting us as arrogant, hateful, and violent. In reality, the other side should be afraid precisely because we are humble, peaceful, and prayerful, because therein lies the force that uproots injustice from society.”
A note on the Facebook page of Fr. Pavone of Priests for Life prior to the protest said that the protesters at the prayer vigil Thursday morning expected to meet with arrest, but said that “civil disobedience is called for.”
Pro-life groups including the Christian Defense Coalition, Operation Rescue, Rock for Life, Students for Life of America, and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust were all slated to join the prayer vigil.
“The faith community can never be silent or indifferent when it comes to matters of justice, human rights and religious liberty. We want to make it clear to President Obama that Christians would rather spend time in a jail cell than be coerced into complying with an mandate that violates our religious beliefs!” said Operation Rescue in a statement Tuesday.
Obama’s mandate that all employers cover all birth control, including abortifacients like ella, and sterilizations, has united Christians from numerous denominations in an unprecedented show of opposition. Despite an “accommodation” from the Obama administration last Friday ostensibly designed to appease religious-based opposition, the protests have only increased in vehemence, with the United States Conference of Catholic bishops denouncing the “accommodation” as insufficient.
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church has said that he would “go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do.” Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), has also said Christians would go to jail if the mandate was not changed.
Kemper pointed out what he said was a double-standard in the police treatment of the pro-life activists: that while “Occupy people can live on federal property…these leaders cannot pray on public property” without being arrested. Kemper posted images of the protest in progress on his blog Thursday morning.