The Corner

Notre Dame’s Teachable Moment

 In May 2009, my alma mater, Notre Dame University, was at the center of a political firestorm over its plans to have President Obama offer that year’s commencement speech. Many alumni, including myself, felt strongly that the university exercised poor judgment by inviting, and conferring an honorary degree upon, President Obama, who had one of the most pro-abortion voting records in modern political history.

Most notably, throughout his political career President Obama has been staunchly opposed to legislation that would provide life-saving medical care to infants who survived failed abortions, voting against three different “born alive” bills proposed in the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal ban against partial-birth abortion in 2007, then-senator Obama said he strongly disagreed with the ruling because it failed to safeguard the health of pregnant women, despite the fact that Congress had declared the procedure “gruesome and inhumane.”

Other than a few moments of equivocation on the 2008 campaign trail when certain moral considerations were deemed above his pay grade, President Obama had made no apologies for his unwavering support of a woman’s right to choose, even if that means leaving a fully-formed, living, breathing baby to die.

#more#For its part, Notre Dame made no apologies for giving President Obama an honorary degree, recognizing not his abortion record, but his “willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate,” which Notre Dame concluded would inspire our nation “to heal its divisions of religion, culture, race and politics in the audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow.”

Today, nearly three years later, our nation is embroiled in a very heated public debate over the Obama administration’s decision to force religious institutions, including universities like Notre Dame, to offer its employees health-insurance coverage for drugs that, among other things, may induce abortions.

This new mandate, as required under President Obama’s signature health-care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is an unprecedented attack on our constitutionally protected religious liberties, forcing scores of religious employers and individuals to pay for drugs that they consider morally objectionable and that violate the very tenets of their faith.

Employers will have to choose between providing health-insurance coverage that is inimical to their basic religious beliefs; to stop providing coverage to their employees and pay a steep financial penalty; or, in some cases, to close their doors to the communities they serve.

The consequences of this mandate will be far-reaching, affecting hospitals, social-service agencies, universities, elementary schools, soup kitchens, and other institutions that are morally opposed to this rule, and will threaten to undermine the protections afforded to all Americans through our Constitution’s First Amendment.

If we are going to stop this affront to our religious freedom, we need to send a clear message to President Obama that his actions are unconstitutional, immoral, and represent a level of government overreach that undermines the founding principles on which our great nation was built.

Watching the protests unfold at Notre Dame three years ago, I felt the call to action, and so one evening I got out of bed and drove through the night to South Bend to join those protesting President Obama’s commencement speech.

While I respected Notre Dame’s First Amendment right to have whomever they chose speak at the graduation, I did not agree with their decision, as an alumnus and a Catholic, so I exercised my First Amendment right to voice my opposition.

Now that we are in the midst of one of the greatest assaults on our First Amendment right guaranteeing religious freedom, we need to act boldly and swiftly to stop this abomination from taking place.

Given President Obama’s long established and well-documented position on abortion, his decision to advance an extreme pro-abortion agenda should come as no surprise. It was what I and thousands of other protesters back in May 2009 had anticipated when we gathered in prayer and in protest.

Notre Dame may have been fooled once by President Obama, but I have full confidence that the University of Notre Dame will rise this time in protest, rather than in praise, of a leader who has demonstrated a level of audacity that will inspire neither hope nor healing, but will rather serve to undermine the religious liberties that generations of Americans, including tens of millions of Catholics, have fought to protect and defend since our nation’s Founding.

— Representative Mike Kelly is the Republican congressman for Pennsylvania’s third district. 


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