- Iran mulls ban on vasectomies, decrease on abortions to bolster population
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers ‘more deadly than jihadists’
- Classes resume at high school rocked by stabbings
- ABC News accuses Center for Public Integrity of stealing Pulitzer-winning work
- Law firm that cleared N.J. Gov. Christie in ‘Bridgegate’ gave 10K to RGA, which he heads
- PETA ‘hopping mad’ at Michelle Obama for using real eggs at Easter Egg Roll
- Sneaky Nebraska toddler traps self inside claw machine game
- Biden to lead $600 million work force training effort
- Atheists’ Easter taunt to Christians: ‘Jesus is a myth’
- Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels Kansas City show
Obama’s remarks about Catholic schools spark new fight with church
President Obama’s remarks on Catholic schools during his trip to Northern Ireland this week have sparked an unexpected uproar, with critics accusing him of diminishing religious education.
The backlash, which has grown steadily since Mr. Obama made the comments Monday, once again has put the commander in chief at odds with the Roman Catholic Church, which is fighting a provision in the president’s health care law that requires religious institutions to provide free birth control for their employees.
Mr. Obama made the comments during a speech in Belfast while addressing the removal of “peace lines” in Northern Ireland, physical barriers set up between neighborhoods — inevitably one almost entirely Catholic and other overwhelmingly Protestant — designed to calm sectarian tensions.
Children in Northern Ireland attend state schools that differ according to religion. In nearly all cases, a Catholic family and a Protestant one living next door will send their children to different schools.
“Issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it,” Mr. Obama said.
“If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation,” he said.
Those words garnered little attention in the U.S. in the hours after they were spoken, but in the days since, Catholic figures on both sides of the Atlantic have taken aim at the president.
“Catholic education is not the source of ‘division’ in Northern Ireland, nor are [Catholic schools] a source of division anywhere in the world. Catholic schools educate children without regard for race, class, sex, origin or even religious faith,” said Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, a nonprofit advocacy group.
“The work of Catholic education is a response to the Gospel call to serve, not divide. In a free society, Catholics have every right to operate schools,” he said.
It’s hardly the first time Mr. Obama has been perceived as attacking the Catholic Church. The administration has been embroiled in lawsuits filed by Catholic universities, businesses and other groups seeking exemptions from contraception provisions in the health care act. The cases have centered on whether requiring a Catholic organization to fund contraception violated First Amendment religious freedom rights. The church teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil and forbids direct cooperation with it.
Mr. Obama also came under fire in 2009 when he addressed graduates at the University of Notre Dame, which later became a party to a health care reform lawsuit. Officials at Notre Dame were criticized for allowing a pro-choice figure to address students at a renowned Catholic institution. Fights have unfolded at other schools across the country when pro-choice figures are chosen as commencement speakers.
Now, however, Mr. Obama is under fire from Catholic leaders around the world.
He also walked into a context different from the images that separate schooling conjures in American minds. In Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, government-funded separate schooling is treasured by the minority community (Catholics) as a historic concession from the officially Protestant state and as a way to preserve its own identity.
A bishop in Northern Ireland is accusing the president of a “hackneyed” analysis of politics in the nation and how religious schools play into the issue.
“While so many young people are very open to new friendships and opportunities, it needs to be stated that it is adults outside schools who promote mistrust for their own political and personal agendas,” said Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor, according to the Catholic News Service.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Biden to lead $600 million work force training effort
- Separation of church and Obama: Religious ties may run deep, but president's attendance has not
- Obamas paid $98K in taxes in 2013, White House says
- Obama calls principal of Pa. high school devastated by stabbings
- Democrats press Obama for Keystone pipeline decision
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By returning to Christian roots, the nation can achieve greatness once again
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- GOP writes legislation to deny Attorney General Eric Holder his salary
- Secret U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
- CARSON: Recovering Tocqueville's vision of American exceptionalism
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- EDITORIAL: Intolerance at Brandeis silences Muslim dissident Hirsi Ali
- Kirsten Dunst: Actress sparks feminist ire: 'You need a man to be a man'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.