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Several hundred people gathered in front of Seattle’s federal courthouse around noon today to protest provisions of the Obama Administration’s healthcare mandate that they said requires employers to pay for contraception and abortions regardless of the employer’s religious affiliations or concerns of conscience.

The protest was one of 140 held in cities across the country, according to one of the Seattle event’s organizers, Suzanne Harmon.

The events were staged to take place just as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments over the law, starting Monday. The justices of the nation’s highest court could uphold the law, strike it down or eliminate some provisions, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to the controversial provision that calls for employers to pay for healthcare that provides access to contraception, sterilization and abortion, the law also calls for changes in the number of people receiving healthcare coverage, what must be covered and who pays for it.

Of particular interest to insurance companies, are two key provisions, AP reports. One is the so-called individual mandate that requires most people to carry health insurance by 2014 or pay penalties. The other is the requirement that insurers cover everyone who applies even if they have a pre-existing condition, like diabetes, which can produce high medical costs.

While a great many people at Friday’s protest claimed to have strong religious convictions, the rally also drew many who said they were concerned about the mandate’s infringement on the principles of the First Amendment and others who said the government should not be in business of mandating anything.

Dino Rossi, who ran for state governor in 2008, said that every citizen, even self-described atheists, should  be concerned about the mandates.

Rossi said he doesn’t believe that having a conscience is a crime and that he was there to stand up “for religious freedom for every American.”

Dr. Tom Curran, of St. Vincent de Paul’s in Federal Way, said, “I love my country and my faith and they should not be put in opposition.”

Kaelen Burton, of Healing the Culture, read from a homily written by Father Sammi Maletta.

He said, ‘We cannot and will not follow this law. We will close down our schools, our hospitals, our nursing homes, our orphanages … We will go out of business before we pay to have a child murdered.”

“It’s strong language,” said Burton, who introduced the rally’s speakers, “But it is really what this is about.”

The group cheered and shouted “Amen” when Rossi asked those in attendance to pray for the president and to ask that God “soften his heart.”

After a closing prayer, the group sang “God Bless America.”