Troy, AL – A professor at Troy University unveiled his artwork exploiting the Virgin Mary to make a political statement about HB 56, a 2011 anti-illegal immigration law. The Virgin Mary was depicted with the words “cleaning lady” written in Spanish. She was shown carrying a can of bleach labeled “ethnic cleanser” adorned with a swastika. In another work, the artist arranged in a swastika formation the words “Presbyterian indifference,” “Baptist indifference,” “Methodist indifference,” and “Catholic indifference,” with “HB 56” at the center of the swastika.
Queens, NY – A “transgender” teacher filed a discrimination lawsuit against St. Francis Preparatory School. The lawsuit said the school broke New York state and city law when he was terminated eight months after he “came out.” This instance of trying to bring the weight of the government to bear on a Catholic school was an attempt to infringe on the autonomy of a Catholic institution.
Meadville, PA – At Allegheny College, two “sexperts” taught students how to masturbate at an event hosted in a Christian chapel that hosts Catholic Masses. In response, Bill Donohue sent a letter to the president of the college. The letter was also publicized in a Catholic League press release. Donohue asked the president why other possible venues on campus were not chosen for the event and why this event was selected to take place during Lent.
Providence, RI – In a speech titled, “Beyond Diversity: Challenging Racism in an Age of Backlash,” anti-racist activist Tim Wise claimed that the Catholic Church was partially responsible for the slaughter of American Indians in a speech funded by and hosted at Providence College. Wise charged that the Church “was directly implicated in slaughtering the indigenous people on this continent”; “was directly implicated in the conquest of the Southwest”; and “was directly implicated in sending indigenous children to boarding schools to strip them of their culture, to cut their hair, to kill the Indian and save the man for Jesus.” Wise also argued that the Church should depict Jesus Christ as black for one year.
Cincinnati, OH – A Catholic school teacher was fired in December 2011 because her unwed pregnancy violated her contract, which stated that she would comply with Church teachings. In response, she filed a discrimination lawsuit seeking back pay and punitive damages. The lawsuit smacked of bigotry. It was an attack on the autonomy of the Catholic Church because it invited the heavy hand of government to police the employment decisions of religious schools.
The Canadian journal, Studies in Religion, published an article on Mother Teresa by Serge Larivée et al. in its March issue.
The article was a rehash of a book written by the late atheist, Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position. Indeed, throughout the article no one is cited more than Hitchens. Not surprisingly, the lead author, Serge Larivée, is a devout atheist, as is at least one of the co-authors.
The authors wrote of Mother Teresa’s “rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”
The authors also attacked Bill Donohue for lacing Hitchens. In Donohue’s review of Hitchens’ book, Donohue said that it “is a 98 page essay printed on eight-and-a-half by five-and-a-half inch paper,” and that it “contains no footnotes, no citations of any kind.” For them to depend so heavily on a book that provides not a scintilla of evidence spoke volumes
The University of Montreal news release promoting the article said the goal was to dispel the “myth of altruism” surrounding Mother Teresa.
Finally, on four occasions the release misspelled her name as “Theresa.”
March 7 – 11
Quinnipiac University released the misleading results of its poll suggesting that Catholics are pro-gay marriage. This “finding” was widely publicized in the media. Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said “Catholic voters are leading American voters toward support for same-sex marriage.” His conclusion was based on the finding that Catholic voters favor gay marriage, 54-38 percent, while the figures nationally are 47-43 percent.The sample size of Catholics was a mere 497, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent. Furthermore, Quinnipiac asked Catholic voters 14 questions on issues of interest to them, and on all but one the survey disaggregated the answers on the basis of church attendance. The one exception was on same-sex marriage. This was a glaring omission, given that four in ten of the Catholics sampled did not practice their religion (28 percent go to church “a few times a year” and 11 percent say they “never” attend) and that nominal Catholics would tend to support gay marriage.
Reporters from cnsnews.com later contacted Quinnipiac. The polling outfit then admitted that 55 percent of Catholics who are regular church-goers are opposed to gay marriage, and only 38 percent favor it, contradicting Brown’s claim that “Catholic voters are leading American voters toward support for same-sex marriage.”
Brown defended the omission by saying “we only have so much space, and can only do so many things up front.”
Even after admitting that it misled the public, Quinnipiac still hadn’t corrected the record on its website.
March 22 – May 14
Boca Raton, FL – The administration at Florida Atlantic University issued an apology for an offensive incident involving one of its faculty members. The professor involved, Dr. Deandre Poole in the School of Communications and Media Studies, was placed on administrative leave for the rest of the semester, after a protest ensued regarding an activity that took place in his classroom.
The incident took place on March 22 in Dr. Poole’s Intercultural Communications Class. Students were asked to write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper, fold it up and stomp on it. One of the students, a junior who identified himself as a Mormon, refused to participate in the exercise on the basis of his religious beliefs. When he protested to Dr. Poole’s supervisor, he was told that he was suspended from the class.
Bill Donohue wrote directly to Dr. Poole, asking him why he didn’t invite students to write the name “Obama” on a piece of paper, instead of “Jesus.” In a press release, Donohue provided Poole’s e-mail address so that Catholic League members could relay their concerns. Included in the university administration’s apology was a statement that no protesting student would suffer any sanctions. Catholic League members were instrumental in achieving this outcome.
After the professor was placed on administrative leave, the president of the university resigned on May 14. Several media outlets reported that the “Jesus Stomp” was the final straw for a president already facing a number of growing controversies.
Madison, AL – The principal at Heritage Elementary School informed teachers that no activities related to or centered around any religious holiday would be allowed. As a result, teachers and students were prohibited from using the word “Easter” to describe several traditional and secular activities. Easter bunnies were referred to as rabbits and an educational Easter egg quiz bowl was replaced with “different kinds of shapes besides eggs.”
Eventually reason prevailed. The Madison City School Board intervened explaining that the principal was “more cautious than she needed to be.” The students were allowed to have eggs and participate in traditional Easter activities, but the principal still would not allow teachers to use the word “Easter” in lessons.
NYU Local, a student news blog at New York University, encouraged readers to have sex in the school’s Catholic Center: “We spent a lot of time searching the new addition to Kimmel Center for places to have sex in, mostly because we thought it would be funny to suggest that you to [sic] screw in our brand spanking-new Catholic center,” the blog read.
NYU Local, a student news blog at New York University, published a blog post entitled, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Not Touching Myself For Lent.” The post was a transcription of an internet chat between two of the blog’s reporters on Easter Sunday. The entire post was obscene and mocked the Lenten season: “On Palm Sunday, two of our ‘Catholic’ reporters decided to face Lent head on. After deciding that the lack of bagels, drugs or sex would be asking for too much, the faithful duo settled on something else: for the next forty days, they gave up touching themselves in the name of God.”
April 4 – July 4
Washington, DC – On April 4, news reports said that a Catholic priest, Father Greg Shaffer, was under fire by two homosexual students at George Washington University (GWU) for holding to Church teachings on homosexuality and abortion.
On the same day the story broke, Bill Donohue contacted every senior administrative official on the campus warning them of the civil liberties issues involved. He vigorously defended Father Shaffer, the Chaplain of the Newman Center, and pledged to fight for his rights.
In his open letter to GWU officials, Donohue said, “Nothing that has been reported by the media suggests that Father Shaffer has said anything inflammatory about these subjects, and the students themselves do not offer any evidence of abusive speech or behavior.”
Donohue made it clear that this issue “transcends Father Shaffer: it is an attack on the freedom of expression of Catholics on campus to discuss their religious beliefs and practices with impunity. In short, this is a civil liberties issue involving both freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
Neither of the students who made the complaint was Catholic. One belonged to some faux Catholic entity, and the other was an agnostic Jew. What angered them most was the refusal of Father Shaffer to give his blessing to their homosexual relationship.
After Catholic League members who receive our news releases contacted GWU, the university was forced to respond. It maintained that, in accordance with its principles, it does everything it can to encourage dialogue of a respectful nature, emphasizing that it is dedicated to freedom of expression, as well as the right of everyone to exercise their religious beliefs, including the rigths of those who strongly disagree with them.
Donohue replied saying, “This is classic doublespeak. There is only one party to this controversy that has crossed the line, and it isn’t Father Shaffer. The attempt to silence him shows nothing but contempt for diversity and tolerance, the twin towers of academic virtue these days.”
On April 9, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Steven R. Lerman wrote a letter to Donohue assuring him “that The George Washington University strives to embody the spirit of mutual respect and reasoned debate that is essential to our academic mission.” Dr. Lerman wrote that, “We are therefore committed to ensuring that all members of our community are free to express their religious beliefs while honoring the right of others to express theirs.”
Immediately following the Catholic League’s news release on April 12, the provost told the Faculty Senate that GWU defended Father Shaffer’s freedom of speech.
On April 14, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington visited the university and expressed support for Fr. Shaffer during his homily at a Mass with students. “I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer…and to stand in solidarity with a good priest,” he said.
On July 4, at the closing Mass for the second annual “Fortnight for Freedom,” at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Wuerl cited what happened to Fr. Shaffer at George Washington University as an example of “the new intolerance.”
The Archdiocese of Washington played a key role by issuing stinging statements on the way GWU responded. Also noteworthy was the fact that the Newman Center was slated to receive an increase in funding from the Student Association in fall 2014.
May 2 – June 11
Pittsburgh, PA – A female student at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) dressed as the pope while appearing naked from the waist down at the annual art school parade. Her pubic hair was shaved in the shape of a cross; she passed out condoms to the public. Administrators reviewed this incident to see “if our community standards or laws were violated.”
Catholic League president Bill Donohue raised several questions about what happened. For one thing, he noted that the university did not have to ponder what to do regarding a recent earlier incident involving one of its fraternities; it simply suspended the students, as well as the entire Beta Theta Pi fraternity, for taking sexual pictures and videos inside the frat house and then emailing them to other members. An investigation was underway. But when it came to a female student who walked the streets naked from the waist down while mocking the pope, the administrators were much more relaxed. She was not suspended during a probe of this matter.
Donohue commented: “‘The Freedom of Expression Policy’ at CMU prizes individual expression, but it is not absolute: it explicitly ties rights to responsibilities. Perhaps most important, the ‘Carnegie Mellon Code’ says students ‘are expected to meet the highest standards of personal, ethical and moral conduct possible.’ It would seem axiomatic that the offending student violated these strictures.” Donohue argued that if CMU were to tolerate this incident, invoking no sanctions whatsoever, then it would open a door it may well regret. What, he asked, if instead of shaved pubic hair in the shape of a cross, a student chose to depict a swastika?
CMU’s decision not to suspend this female student, who publicly ridiculed Catholics and violated the local ordinance on public nudity, while invoking sanctions against the frat boys for offensive behavior behind closed doors, was legally problematic and morally indefensible.
Later CMU president Jared Cohon did apologize for the incident. His apology was sincere and much appreciated. At the time, a final resolution of this incident was not made, so it was too early to say whether CMU would treat this “highly offensive” act, as Cohon put it, the way it would resolve the pending case involving fraternity students and sex videos.
Donohue responded: “To treat the female incident in a less severe manner would raise questions about CMU’s sensitivity to anti-Catholicism, and would also put into play the issue of gender discrimination. We look forward to a just resolution to both of these indefensible incidents.”
A week later, on May 10, Cohon released a statement explaining that campus police had filed misdemeanor charges against the offending student, as well as two others. His letter balanced the need for freedom of expression with a commitment to fighting intolerance.
Cohon discredited real artistic merit when he said the student “made an artistic statement that proved to be controversial.” Donohue commented: “There is nothing artistic about this infantile anti-Catholic insult. But we appreciate his willingness not to dodge this issue.”
In June, an agreement was struck by CMU, the district attorney, and two of the offending students. Their misdemeanor charges would be dropped provided they each completed 80 hours of community service.
Muldrow, OK – The Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue Muldrow Public Schools because the Ten Commandments were displayed in classrooms. Rather than going to court, the school district caved to militant atheists and removed the displays, which the district received as a donation in the 1990s.
Chula Vista, CA – At Salt Creek Elementary School, a kindergartener was banned from performing in the talent show because the song he wanted to sing, “Our God is Mercy,” had Christian lyrics. School officials reversed course and decided to allow the child to sing the song.
Howell, MI – A federal judge issued his opinion that a teacher at Howell High school violated a student’s First Amendment rights when the teacher punished the student for expressing his beliefs against homosexuality. The teacher wore a purple t-shirt and promoted the homosexual agenda in the classroom. In response, the student said that homosexuality was against his Catholic beliefs. This made the teacher angry, and he threw the student out of the classroom. Counsel from the Thomas More Law Center was responsible for this victory supporting the First Amendment rights of the student.
Rohnert Park, CA – At Sonoma State University, a Catholic student was ordered to remove her cross necklace by her supervisor at her on-campus job. The student said, “I was offended because I believe as a Christian woman it is my prerogative to display my faith any way I like so long as it is not harming anyone else. I was very hurt and felt as if the university’s mission statement—which includes tolerance and inclusivity to all—was violated.” On a second encounter, her supervisor instructed her to hide the cross or remove it. An attorney for the Liberty Institute represented the student. A university spokeswoman apologized to the student on behalf of the university president. In an interview, the spokeswoman admitted that “it’s possible that political correctness got out of hand.”
Washington, D.C. – Homosexual activism at Georgetown University was profiled in a New York Times article. The escalation of homosexual activism was illustrated by such celebrations as “Gender Liberation Week,” “Gay Pride Month,” a “drag ball” called “Genderfunk,” and a “Lavender graduation attended by the university president.” This year at Genderfunk, a male student wore high heels and dressed as Mary. He danced to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” as a woman dressed as Jesus looked on.
Millington, TN – A 10 year old student was told that she could not write about God for a school assignment that asked her who she idolized. The young girl, a student at Lucy Elementary School, wrote about God and Jesus but was told by her teacher that God could not be her idol and that the paper about God could not even remain on school property. When the girl redid the assignment using Michael Jackson as her idol the teacher accepted the project. A school district spokesperson said that while teachers and staff could not promote religious beliefs, there is no rule that prohibits students from expressing their religious beliefs.
September 27 – October 30
Daytona Beach, FL – University of South Florida (USF) professor Dr. Timothy M. Weil insulted Catholics at a public forum off campus. At a conference held at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort, Dr. Weil gave a paper, “Impact of Rule Governance on Motivation and its Clinical Application”; it was part of the proceedings of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis. The Catholic League received the following report of Weil’s presentation:
He put up a picture of an equal sign (=) in the middle of the large screen and then added a picture of a priest holding a crucifix to the left of it, and a picture of a toilet to the right. He then asked the audience to comment on what the picture means. Someone from the audience yelled, “They’re both full of s***.” After the audience settled down, Dr. Weil strolled around the room and gleefully repeated the response; those who were here knew he got the response he sought.
Bill Donohue then wrote a letter to USF officials about the incident. After nearly 3 weeks elapsed without a response, Donohue went public with an excerpt of the letter. Donohue’s letter was sent to the top administrative and academic officials at USF. He also sent a copy to the 16 members of the Florida Board of Governors, and to John B. Ramil, Chairman of the University of South Florida System.
Donohue was not happy to learn that Professor Weil’s initial reaction was to say that his analogy, equating priests with feces, was misunderstood, and that it was academically valid. However, Dr. Julianne Serovich, Dean of the College of Behavioral & Community Sciences, told Donohue that she was sorry she had not gotten back to him earlier; she said she was now looking into the matter.
On October 30, Dr. Serovich notified Donohue that Dr. Weil had received a “Letter of Counsel” and that he would be apologizing. Dr. Weil’s letter of apology went directly to Donohue; it was handled professionally. Donohue accepted it, and wished him well with his academic career. He also wrote to Dr. Serovich saying that her response was “judicious.”