Notre Dame

OBAMACARE: Catholic institution denied religious exemption

A federal appeals court has denied Notre Dame’s request for an exemption from the Obamacare mandate, which requires the Catholic university to provide contraceptives – some of which may be abortifacients – to its employees.

In the two-to-one ruling last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied any religious exemption for the university. Religious organizations have doggedly protested the Health and Human Services mandate, part of Obamacare’s Affordable Care Act, in courts across the country. This recent ruling has been seen as a huge blow to those efforts.

“This marked the first time that a federal appeals court had rejected a claim that the Supreme Court’s ruling last June in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores should shield a non-profit religious organization from any role whatsoever in carrying out the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate,” Lyle Denniston of SCOTUS blog wrote.

The ruling has frustrated Notre Dame alumni and others who see it as an infringement on strongly held religious beliefs.

“The 7th Circuit majority was just plain wrong in its application of  Hobby Lobby,” William Dempsey, chairman of the alumnus Sycamore Trust donor group, told The College Fix in a telephone interview.

“The Supreme Court said courts have to accept a plaintiff’s sincere claim of conscience, though the plaintiff could still lose if the public interest demanded it, but the court of appeals simply said to Notre Dame in effect, ‘You may feel that way but you shouldn’t,’” Dempsey said. “Still, the Supreme Court may not take this or any other case for review until some court of appeals rules against the government. So far, none have.” NotreDame2.KateHardiman

The Obamacare mandate requires all employer health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs. The mandate provides an extremely narrow exemption for “religious employers,” which fails to cover most faith-based organizations including Catholic hospitals, universities, and service organizations.

To meet the exemption qualifications, religious employers must hire and serve exclusively people of their own faith, qualify as a church or religious order as defined by the tax code, and exist for the purpose of inculcating religious doctrine. With that, religious universities and business owners have had limited successes with their legal challenges.

Last June, the Supreme Court issued a major ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on the contraception mandate, stating that the federal regulation cannot be applied to “closely held corporations” if their owners object on religious grounds. Following this case, the court of appeals reconsidered Notre Dame’s plea for exemption, after the trial court denied Notre Dame’s request that the Obamacare mandate requirement be suspended pending the trial.

In his dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Joel Flaum stated that “because Notre Dame offers health insurance to its students, and especially because it acts as a self-insurer for its employees, the law turns Notre Dame into a conduit for the provision of cost-free contraception…Notre Dame’s only alternative is to endure crippling fines.”

Yet alumni groups such as Sycamore Trust have been critical of the way Notre Dame itself handled the lawsuit against the Health and Human Services mandate from the beginning.

In its denial of relief, the trial court mentioned that Notre Dame’s delay in legally challenging the mandate was “a little hard to swallow.” President Rev. John Jenkins and the administration had told employees just two months prior to filing the lawsuit that they would be receiving free contraceptives. Citing “competitive necessity,” Notre Dame also provided a contraceptive and abortifacient plan to students following the mandate after considering the health plans of other major universities.

Dennis Brown, Notre Dame’s assistant vice president for university communications, did not respond to The College Fix’s request for comment. As of today, Notre Dame has released no official statement about the 7th circuit’s ruling.

College Fix reporter Kate Hardiman is a student at the University of Notre Dame.

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

IMAGES: Kate Hardiman

Notre Dame has been blatantly misleading its students for years on where they should report allegations of sexual assault, by its own admission.

The newly elected prosecutor of St. Joseph County told the South Bend Tribune that the county Special Victims Unit should be involved in reported assaults on campus, but the school itself told students last month:

“Students are strongly encouraged to consider reporting a sexual assault to the University and/or the police. Notre Dame Security Police is a duly authorized police agency in the state of Indiana, and is the law enforcement agency with which to file a report for any incident that occurred on Notre Dame property,” Erin Hoffmann Harding, the vice president for student affairs, wrote in the email.

Its student handbook also tells students to go to campus police.

Prosecutor Ken Cotter’s statements “are a departure from years of practice and advice to students about reporting procedures and the role of campus police,” and Notre Dame is the lone holdout among colleges in the county in snubbing offers from the SVU, the Tribune said:

Connie Adams, director of the Belles Against Violence Office at Saint Mary’s [College], said she had never before heard that victims of assault could seek out help from the SVU rather than Notre Dame police.

“That’s definitely information we’ll be distributing to students so they know their options,” said Adams, who is a member of Notre Dame’s Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention.

Does this sound like Notre Dame really thinks rape is a crime?

In an agreement among ND and local officials, the countywide Metro Homicide Unit would investigate a murder on campus, and the county Fatal Alcohol Crash Team would investigate a fatal traffic accident on campus, Cotter said.

But when it comes to sex assault cases, Notre Dame thus far has chosen not to participate in the SVU. [Notre Dame Security Police] officers do notify SVU of sex assault reports but handle the investigations themselves.

By the way, the school has been spurning the South Bend Tribune‘s requests to meet with administrators for details on the campus disciplinary hearing process for handling rape allegations, and to get basic stats on cases and punishments.

The school spokesman evaded Notre Dame’s misleading advice to students in a statement to the Chicago Tribune:

Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne said Monday the university has declined invitations to join the victims unit because the school can handle the investigations itself.

He said victims always have been free to report crimes to any police department.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes that Notre Dame has been criticized for how it handled rape allegations, with one student committing suicide a month after she reported her alleged assault to campus police rather than the county SVU:

Notre Dame seems to believe it has the specialized training, experience, and resources to adequately investigate claims of sexual assault without joining forces with the county’s SVU. However, former Notre Dame police investigator Pat Cottrell disagrees, arguing sexual assault allegations on campus should be investigated by the SVU.

Who does it sound like has better resources to investigate allegations? According to the Chicago Tribune:

The [special victims] unit, made up of 11 detectives drawn from the county’s major police departments, last year investigated 139 allegations of adult sex crimes. Notre Dame campus police handled 15 reported sex crimes in 2013, according to school figures supplied to the federal government.

Read the stories and FIRE’s post.

IMAGE: Mack Sennett Studios/Wikimedia Commons




Officials quiet about status of discussion after several scholars voice concern

Officials at the University of Notre Dame are contemplating opening a satellite campus in China, but the discussion has prompted concern among some faculty who say the notion runs afoul of the school’s Catholic identity and, if approved, would appear to condone some of the communist country’s anti-Catholic policies.

The partnership under consideration would be a joint residential liberal arts college with Zhejiang University at the school’s new international campus in Haining, China.

The college would open for the 2017-18 academic year and is projected to admit 1,000 undergraduate students, 70 percent Chinese and 30 percent international, according to Notre Dame officials. The college would operate autonomously, directed by a governing council, comprised of members from Zhejiang University and Notre Dame and chaired by the presidents of both universities.NotreDame3.MudFlapDC.Flickr

A white paper on the subject was authored by J. Nicholas Entrikin, Notre Dame’s vice president and associate provost for internationalization, and Jonathan Noble, the university’s assistant provost for Asia. Circulated to Notre Dame faculty in October, it states that the international campus “will be composed of six colleges and institutes, each developed in joint partnership with North American and European university partners … This past summer Notre Dame and [Zhejiang University] signed an agreement to hold bilateral discussions about the feasibility of this joint venture.”

In January, the Irish Rover—Notre Dame’s independent campus newspaper—reported on a Dec. 5 faculty town hall discussion on the possible joint venture. At the forum, moderated by Associate Provost Entrikin, several faculty members voiced reservations about the potential partnership.

Fr. Bill Miscamble, professor of history, argued that it was wrong for Notre Dame as a Catholic university to pursue the discussion any further. Citing the Chinese government’s persecution of the underground Catholic Church in China, as well as the state-sponsored People’s Church, he argued that Notre Dame’s involvement might “indicate that somehow or other, Catholics in America are tolerant of vast human rights abuses.”

John Cavadini, professor of theology and director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life, posed questions about the possible restrictions that could be placed on Notre Dame in China.

“I wonder if we’ll be able to be ourselves in China,” Cavadini said at the December meeting. “Can we have a chapel there in which Mass is celebrated and in which there are no restrictions on who can come to Mass? Or are we going to censor ourselves and the Holy Mass? I wonder if Catholic theology will be taught and will be available and open to all students.”

And Fr. Bill Dailey, a law lecturer, said that in the last three years, at least one-third of all those seeking asylum in the United States were from China. He noted that there is a list of countries with which Notre Dame would never consider such a proposal, noting in particular those led by Kim Jong-un or Bashar al-Assad.

“What is the concrete evidence that China should not be on that list?” Fr. Dailey asked. “There seems to be reams of concrete evidence that they belong on that list, that they belong on that list emphatically.”

But John McGreevy, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said at the conclusion of the forum, “I tend to think of it more as opportunities for our faculty to become globalized than what we’re going to do for liberal arts education in China, but that might be significant too.”

While acknowledging the importance of questions about academic and religious freedom, McGreevy said, “I think engagement is a much wiser long-term strategy for Notre Dame than what I might call a puritan strategy, that is, we can’t engage in China in any serious way.”

When contacted by The College Fix for an update on the status of the China campus discussion, Entrikin’s office directed the reporter to university spokesman Dennis Brown. Brown also declined to comment.

There are unconfirmed reports that Notre Dame may send a delegation to Zhejiang University for further deliberation sometime in the near future.

College Fix reporter Alexandra DeSanctis is a student at the University of Notre Dame and managing editor of the Irish Rover. 

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter


Eight students enrolled in course; scholars remain tight lipped about curriculum

A controversial new course at the University of Notre Dame on “white privilege” launched recently despite a tidal wave of criticism from conservatives, Catholic groups, and even many students and alumni who suggested the subject matter is biased, inflammatory, and meant to shame white people and indoctrinate students.

But the three co-teachers of the one-credit, six-week seminar are remaining silent about the national censure they endured and the many questions and concerns about the class curriculum.

The seminar is being co-taught by Iris Outlaw, director of the multicultural student programs and services; Emmanuel Cannady, assistant director of outreach services for the Gender Relations Center; and Ke’ana Bradley, assistant director of programming for the multicultural division.

Outlaw declined to comment to The College Fix when asked about the material being used to teach the seminar. Neither Cannady nor Bradley responded to the Fix’s request for comment as well.

According to Notre Dame’s class listings, eight students have enrolled in the course.

In order to participate, students had to complete a 15-20 minute interview prior to acceptance. The seminar’s description states that “the goal for each participant is personal transformation: to leave the class… more aware of injustices and better equipped with tools to disrupt personal, institutional, and worldwide systems of oppression.”

“[P]eople consciously and unconsciously simultaneously participate in and are affected by systems of oppression. However, since these behaviors can be learned, they can be unlearned.”

The course includes a university-funded trip to the annual White Privilege Conference, which is being hosted in March in Louisville, Kentucky. The website for this conference states the fee for one college student is $195. That adds up to $1,560 for eight students, not including travel costs and fees for professors.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown told the Irish Rover independent campus newspaper in an interview that covering such costs is not out of the ordinary.

“The university will assist with funding for the conference,” Brown said. “There is nothing unusual about such funding for student participation in for-credit, off-campus experiential activities.”

When asked about the definition of white privilege and the logic behind awarding credit for this class, Brown replied that all universities explore complex issues.

“The theory of ‘white privilege’ is a well-established area of academic inquiry within sociology and certainly is a subject worthy of close examination by students who are interested in better understanding race relations,” Brown explained.

But many critics have called the conference anti-Christian. As the Cardinal Newman Society reported, recent workshops have accused Christianity of “punishing the poor, destroying the environment, and contributing to the war on terror.”

A highly influential Notre Dame alumnus and donor, troubled by the prospect of the course, wrote a letter to Outlaw in December noting the potential detriments of sending students to the white privilege conference. A copy of the letter was obtained by The College Fix. The alumnus has asked to remain anonymous.

“An unintended, but predictable, effect might be radicalization that teaches them more about the effectiveness of street methods (cop hating, traffic disruption and property destruction) than it does about an empathetic, Christian love of all men who we believe have been made in the image and likeness of God,” the alumnus said.

The alumnus later told The Fix that he received a phone call from Brown in reply, not responding to his specific concerns, but notifying him that Outlaw had received the letter.

College Fix reporter Alexandra DeSanctis is a student at the University of Notre Dame and managing editor of the Irish Rover. 

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

IMAGE: NDomer73/flickr

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team met with representatives of the local police union after they wore t-shirts with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” on them last weekend.

The team, which had their coach’s permission to wear the shirts, says that their only intent was “to show sympathy for family members of those who have died in the recent confrontations,” not to criticize law enforcement.

But others didn’t take it that way. The Elkhart Truth reports:

One Mishawaka police officer who runs a store in South Bend began selling T-shirts that say, “Breathe easy, don’t break the law.”

Meanwhile, Brenda Reimer, the mother of one of the players, earlier this week posted on Facebook photos her daughter was mailed anonymously showing a team jersey set on fire.

“Last weekend my daughter and her teammates showed sympathy for a family who had lost someone. Today, she came home to this,” Reimer wrote.

Sgt. Dan Demler, president of the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said the meeting on Friday helped each side better understand the other’s viewpoint, but he declined to describe the talks in detail.

“It was just a healthy discussion about why we stand the way we stand, why we took issue with it,” he said. “This whole deal is something that has completely spiraled out of control locally and nationally, so to go into detail about it, I just think this thing could get worse and worse.”

Pasquale Rulli, president of the Mishawaka FOP Lodge No. 91, said that all parties at the meeting agreed “to avoid speaking further about the matter in public.”

Read the full story.

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Greta Van Susteren took on Notre Dame’s upcoming class on white privilege, tearing the course a new one for dividing Americans and pushing the notion that only black Americans have it bad in this country.

The Fox News reporter stated in part during her “Off-The-Record” segment recently:

… Face it, Notre Dame’s course name, “White Privilege,” points fingers and creates victims. It is code for all whites have a leg up. And that’s simply just not true.

There are many poor whites, unemployed whites, whites who have lots of problems. White Americans down and out, with no hope. Just like there are many black Americans, unemployed, with lots of problems, down and out. And likewise, with no hope. There are also middle class blacks and middle class whites who have lots of problems, too.

Now, it’s no secret I’m white. I also have privilege. But I know a lot of blacks that are right there with me with that privilege. But that’s not the point of this “Off the Record.” The point is this. Notre Dame and other universities that use terms like “White Privilege” are not going to heal the divides – past divides, present divides, or future divides. Course names actually set the tone for the semester and blaming something is a lousy way to start. …


Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

IMAGES: Fox News