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‘Burwell’ Petitioners Hold Prayer Vigil Outside Supreme Court Night before Their Case
Image source: Kate Scanlon/TheBlaze

‘Burwell’ Petitioners Hold Prayer Vigil Outside Supreme Court Night before Their Case

"Religious freedom belongs to all of us.”

The night before the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a controversial Obamacare case, the petitioners in the case gathered in front of the building’s steps to pray.

The Affordable Care Act’s Health and Human Services mandate requires employers to cover contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in their health insurance plans. Thirty-seven petitioners, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, will ask the Supreme Court to exempt them from the mandate in the consolidated case of Zubik vs. Burewll. The organizations and individuals argue that providing such drugs would violate their conscience.

The pro-life group Priests for Life is one of the 37 petitioners.

Fr. Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, told TheBlaze that “I’m eager about tomorrow.”

“I know we have very, very strong arguments, I’ve been reading through all the briefs, all the documents, and every page I read I’m more encouraged by the strength and the simplicity of the arguments,” Pavone said. “Through all of the thousands of pages, it just boils down to the fact that the government can’t force a believer to violate his faith. Period. That’s it.”

Pavone said that the wide variety of organizations involved in the case strengthen their argument.

“It’s a very diverse group and I think that’s an important thing for people to understand,” Pavone said. “Because they might think, ‘Oh, is this just a women’s issue, is this just a Catholic issue?’ No, no, this is an American issue. Religious freedom belongs to all of us.”

During remarks to those in attendance, Pavone said that only God “deserves our absolute obedience.”

“Now, we’re here tonight not because we oppose government,” he said. “We know that we can be good disciples of Christ, good citizens of Heaven, and at the very same time, good citizens of the United States of America. That’s who we want to be, because following Christ does not mean we fail to acknowledge human authority, it does not mean we fail to acknowledge the authority of that Congress or this court, but brothers and sisters what it also means, is that those who govern us have one who governs them.”

“When there is a conflict, as there so often is, between human mandates and the mandate of the word of God, we stand in a long tradition that says ‘I will obey God rather than men,’” he added.

Dr. Alveda King, who leads Priests for Life’s African-American outreach program “Civil Rights for the Unborn,” told TheBlaze that she is “encouraged” by the support the organization has received, and the number of people praying for them.

“There are people all over the world, certainly all over America, who are joining us on social media, communicating with us and praying with us,” King said.

Pavone and King both addressed the possibility of a divided court reaching a 4-4 decision following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Justice Scalia is already missed,” King said.

Both Pavone and King are listed as individual petitioners in the case, alongside their organization. Janet Morana, the Executive Director of Priests for Life, is also listed as a petitioner.

Morana told those in attendance at the prayer vigil that “I would be the person that would have to sign that accommodation, which of course we will not sign, I will not sign.”

“Religious employers” are exempt from the HHS mandate, but “other non-profit religious organizations” are not.

The government has argued that the organizations have been granted an accommodation to notify their insurers of their objections to the drugs, who will provide contraceptive services to patients. The petitioners liken the accommodation to signing a permission slip for things they don’t condone.

“I would go to jail before I would sign that form,” Morana said.

Follow Kate Scanlon (@kgscanlon) on Twitter

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