Residents protested an Obama-backed plan to force employers to offer birth control to their employees as part of their medical plans.
The rally started at noon Friday at and lasted about an hour. It included speeches -- and one folk guitar performance -- by local activists.
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The crowd gathered to oppose a mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services advocated by President Barack Obama that would require all employers -- even religiously affiliated organizations -- to offer insurance that includes birth control.
"Our land needs saving, dear ones," said Father Josiah Trenham of St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside to hundreds of people crowded around the white gazebo in the park.
The mandate is part of an "evil" plan to subvert Christian society, the priest told the crowd. "A small secular elite have worked to silence (Christians)," he said.
Many in the crowd feared the plan would force employers -- even churches -- to offer abortions to their employees through their health plans.
"I'm Catholic, and I feel attacked by the Obama administration," said George Marquez, a father of six from Moreno Valley. "We've never had a president try to push his agenda on us, on faith -- the constitution clearly states there's a separation between church and state."
Some birth control methods, such as the morning-after pill, are immoral, some said.
"The morning-after pill, that really bothers me," said Cathie Poullath, a mother of 10 from Temecula.
Poullath was born in Iraq to Chaldean Catholic parents. She fled in 1969 after her father was arrested and imprisoned for more than two years because of his religion, she said.
She sees the mandate as a step toward the tyranny she escaped in her youth. "It breaks my heart. I feel like we're going backwards," she said.
Some in the crowd feared their tax money would go to paying for abortions under the new mandate.
"We don't want to be forced to pay for something we don't believe in," said Jennifer Martin, a mother of six from Huntington Beach. "We believe children are children at conception."