Nineteen demonstrators were arrested at Notre Dame University on Saturday as they protested against President Obama’s scheduled commencement speech Sunday, campus police said.
The protesters were not students and they were arrested for trespassing when they stepped on the campus, which is private property, Notre Dame police spokesman Dennis Brown told CNN Radio. Obama’s plan to address the university’s 2009 graduating class on Sunday has touched off a firestorm. At issue are the president’s pro-choice abortion beliefs, which run counter to the Catholic Church’s official anti-abortion stance, and his support for federal funding of stem-cell research. Those views do not sit well with many high-profile Catholics — both on and off-campus — who decry the university’s choice in speaker and its plans to bestow an honorary degree upon the president. Watch police arrest anti-Obama demonstrators » “I have no problem with Obama speaking on the campus. … I have no problem with him addressing the law school, being involved in this symposium. … I do have a problem giving him the honor,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.
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Others have decided to skip the ceremony, most notably the Catholic bishop of nearby South Bend, Indiana. Bishop John D’Arcy said in a written statement, “President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred.” In a statement in March, Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins said the university has been host to Democratic and Republican presidents and said the invitation does not mean the university agrees with all of Obama’s positions.
The White House says the president is honored to be speaking at the university and welcomes the exchange of ideas on hot-button topics. Other presidents who have delivered the commencement address include Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.