Joe Scheidler Speaks at Stand Up Rally in Hartford

PLAL National Director Joe Scheidler greets attendees of the Hartford Rally for Religious Freedom March 23

When I accepted a speaking invitation from John McNamara, a seminarian studying at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, we agreed that Friday morning, March 23, would work for both the seminary and for me.

So the date was set. I was to speak on “What Catholic Laymen Expect of their Priests.” The subject was to concern life issues, and in particular, abortion.

Then there arose the urgency of protesting the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate that all insurance policies would have to include free contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.

This violation of the First Amendment’s right to religious freedom had to be addressed by pro-life activists and all those who saw the Mandate as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The date selected for a national rally would be March 23, the last business day before the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25.

Hartford Rally Born Out of Fortuitous Circumstances

As plans for a massive rally developed, and rallies were eventually planned in 140 cities and town across the country, I felt a tinge of regret that I would not be in Chicago for the flagship event. But the talk in Connecticut was signed and sealed, and I have only once in my speaking career cancelled a talk.

So I called John and asked if he would encourage the seminarians to join a rally in Hartford if we could put one together in time. He said he would.

My next call was to Fr. Joseph Looney, a longtime friend who is pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Connecticut. He said he would also help get the word out and bring parishioners to the rally.

My final call was to Robert Muckle of Waterbury, Connecticut. I have known Bob for many years, and have seen him organize a number of marches and rallies. Although there wouldn’t be much time to put a rally together, Bob said he would make it work.

I flew into Hartford on Thursday, March 22 and gave my talk to the student body at 10:00 Friday morning, and headed for Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building.

When I arrived I was amazed to see what grew to be 400 citizens gathered around a huge equestrian statue of Casimir Pulaski outside the Federal Building.

Ten speakers had been lined up to address the crowd from a platform at the base of the statue, and Holy Apostles seminarians studying for the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago brought bunches of large yellow balloons with “LIFE” emblazoned on them, and many others artistically made signs that blended nicely with signs the League had sent for the rally.

“I Just Happened to Be In Town”

Some in the gathering wondered why the National Director of the Pro-Life Action League had been asked to speak at their rally, since I could have been at any of 140 such rallies, and I told them I just happened to be in town.

My address was short, but helped set the stage for talks by Catholic priests, Protestant ministers, legislators, and other professionals.

Most of the speakers concentrated on the issue of how the HHS Mandate is a gross violation of all Americans’ basic First Amendment Rights. Some went into detail on the issues of abortion-causing drugs and the intrinsic evil of all forms of contraception.

All the speakers declared that it is unconscionable for contraceptives, sterilization and drugs that can cause abortion to be paid for by those who strongly object to their use.

Fr. Looney and I agreed that we should end the rally with The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was the perfect way to end a rally against injustice, and a rally that is just the beginning of the battle to see justice restored.

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