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Candidates speak at city rallies

Donnelly
Stutzman

– Two Indiana congressmen visited Fort Wayne on Saturday for distinctly different reasons.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, was in town to disparage the federal health care law, while Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, came to praise legislation to keep interest rates low on student loans.

Stutzman was the keynote speaker at “Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally” at the downtown Courthouse Green. He and others lambasted a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires religious organizations or their insurers to pay for employees’ contraception even if its use is counter to religious practices.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is threatening the foundation of individual liberty,” Stutzman said.

“This is about faith, and this is about freedom,” he told the crowd.

His wife, Christy, said the insurance mandate is “demeaning to womanhood” and “treats pregnancy as a disease to be treated and cured.”

Her husband, a former state lawmaker from Howe, seeks a second term in the U.S. House. He is being challenged in the Nov. 6 election by Democrat Kevin Boyd, a local Presbyterian pastor.

“It’s kind of interesting they had a religious freedom rally, but the one person in the race who is actually a member of the clergy wasn’t even contacted in any way about the rally,” Boyd said in a telephone interview. “I think that kind of shows it’s a thinly veiled right-wing extremist kind of rally, a Republican rally.”

Rally organizers included representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Lutherans for Life.

Donnelly, who is running for a Senate seat, spoke briefly at the NAACP Statewide Education Summit at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast. His wife, Jill, accompanied him to the event.

“What we are trying to make sure of is that Pell Grant money stays in place, that student interest rates stay low,” he said.

Congress voted this summer to keep the interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans at 3.4 percent. The rate had been scheduled to double under legislation passed five years ago.

“One of the most important things we can do is make sure the opportunity is there” for students to have affordable access to higher education, Donnelly said.

Donnelly is opposed in the Senate race by Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Barbara Bolling, state NAACP president, said Mourdock had been invited to speak to the education summit.

Mourdock spokesman Brose McVey said Mourdock had other commitments. As for education initiatives, Mourdock as treasurer has “reinvigorated” the state-run program for the 529 college savings plan, McVey said.

“The number of kids who can go to college because of it has really skyrocketed. It’s a nice story,” McVey said.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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