April 27th, 2009
02:43 PM ET
11 years ago

Harvard professor backs out of honor, ceremony over Obama

A Harvard Law School professor has decided not to participate in Notre Dame's graduation ceremony because President Obama will be speaking at the event.

A Harvard Law School professor has decided not to participate in Notre Dame's graduation ceremony because President Obama will be speaking at the event.

(CNN) – Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon is turning down an award from the University of Notre Dame because she disagrees with the Catholic institution's decision to invite President Obama to deliver this year's commencement address.

The conservative, pro-life academic explained her decision not to attend the commencement ceremony and not to accept the Laetare Medal from the university in a letter to Notre Dame's president.

"I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree," Glendon wrote in the letter. She also said that she considered the decision to give Obama an honorary degree a violation of a request from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that Catholic institutions not honor individuals who act in defiance of the church's fundamental principles or give awards or platforms that suggest support for the actions of such individuals. Glendon, who described herself as a "longtime consultant" for the group of bishops, said the group's directive was "reasonable."

Glendon also said in the letter that she was concerned by the university's use of her planned involvement in the graduation ceremony as a way to balance Obama's appearance.

A commencement "is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame's decision . . . to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice," Glendon told Notre Dame's president.

After pointing out that Notre Dame's decision appeared to be setting an example that other Catholic institutions were following, the Harvard professor said it was "with great sadness" that she had decided she could not participate in the graduation ceremony nor accept the medal from the university.

Obama is also set to deliver the commencement address at Arizona State University and the U.S. Naval Academy.


Filed under: Abortion • President Obama
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. miriam

    I am sure Jesus didnt preach hatred towards those whom we dont like. Why dont people prove to be better catholic.

    April 27, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. William Charlotte, NC

    That's what I love about conservatives, they talk about non-interference, but with them, it is either their way or NO way.

    April 27, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. JML

    LOL, she "pro-life" but dosen't accept those who are currently LIVING............................right. WE!

    April 27, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  4. gerardo

    it's not a republican convention lady! Some people just gotta have it their way or no way at all.

    April 27, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. JakeD

    You go, Mary Ann!

    April 27, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. T from MO

    This board will soon be filled with those people who will attack this professor for having the integrity to stand up for her beliefs. They will be the same liberals who cannot tolerate others beliefs or religion but believe themselves to be superior in belief and thought. Open your minds and understand other principles and values on this planet.

    April 27, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. NYC REPUB

    People need to get over themselves....and really act like children of Christ.......one of the biggest complaints the Jewish leaders of old had w/ Jesus Christ was the fact that he was seen w/ too many sinners, eating w/ them, and talking w/ them......when in fact he was ministering to them.....Jesus himself said (and i'm paraphrasing) It's the sick that need a doctor...not the well.......too many beleivers today have become such activist, that they constantly preach to the choir......Christ saves people from their sins, so that we can reach others, who need deliverance from their own battles w/ sin...... Notre Dame should honor Obama.....then while he's there, challenge him, w/ your beleifs and views......drop a seed, and let it grow.......

    April 27, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  8. balls

    Is she serious? A law professor? I know this is not court, but cant you separate your religoius views from your common sense views for a moment? How can you preach this aspect in the classroom but not act it in your life. This is why conservatives dont get it and they never will.

    This is a graduation for a university which happens to be catholic, NOT a graduation from a Catholic taught university. I went to ND, this is MY school, and I wont allow right wing extremeists Cathoics to underscore the wonderful education that came first at Notre Dame. I am proud to be an atheist alumnus.

    April 27, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  9. John

    The world will will move forward in spite of people like the professor.

    April 27, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. RH

    Obama's not Catholic. Catholics must stop judging non-Catholics by Catholic standards. Don't like abortion? Don't have one. The same goes for everybody else.

    April 27, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. Allen in Hartwell GA

    it would appear that the American Catholic Church is going to break apart over this issue. Too bad they can't also feel the same way about homosexual pedophile priest.

    April 27, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  12. Noel

    I salute you Mary Ann Glendon...you are what America was built on, the freedom to express yourself without repercussion.

    Additionally, I would also like to say that Miss California 2009 Carrie Prejean, you have the guts of a world leader, you should run for president.

    Catholics around the world are rejoicing!

    April 27, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. M

    That's your decision and I respect it. Now go away and respect other people's opinion and stop the hypocritical BS.

    April 27, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. Eric

    And I'm sure she would have also backed out if someone who supported the Iraq War and the death penalty were giving the keynote, since the church is adamantly against both of those as well...

    April 27, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. Kay

    This is unbelievable. Where were these voices of "consciousness" and "reason" when G.W. Bush was stripping Americans of their rights and needlessly killing Iraqi civilians? If you are looking for the term used in the Bible to refer to those who keep His principles, it is "righteous" not "self-righteous".

    April 27, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  16. J.P.

    Well, if she disagrees with anything that Obama believes, then she MUST be a racist. Right???

    April 27, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. Michael B

    President Obama should do the right thing and not speak at the ceremony. It's causing more problems than solutions, and a good leader knows when to politely decline.

    April 27, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. Simmy

    Professor Glendon,

    I'm thrilled that you have decided not to participate in the ceremonies at Notre Dame. Feeling as you do, your presence would have put a damper on the events. There will be more than enough loonies there, who share your point of view. Your absence amounts to nothing more than one less faux soap boxer....Spare me your drama...

    April 27, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. chelle

    Yet this devout woman manages to work at Harvard without qualms....bizarre.

    April 27, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. candian pov

    He is the President of the United States. He has not been invited to promote abortion. Its funny that the Catholic Church does not condone the death penalty but there was no outcry when Bush was invited.

    April 27, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. Cathy

    I think she is completely right in not accepting the award. It is inconceivable to me that Notre Dame would even ask Obama to come to the campus, much less to speak there. It is a sad, sad time in America when our belief and faith in God, which is what our country was founded upon, is being condemned. We need to pray for our country and hope it survives Obama.

    April 27, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  22. gekonge bwosano

    why can't you go and jump in the lake madam professor, with all your academic knowledge you act and think inside the box. Obama is the president of the USA nation and not the prolife nation which has blinded you to see the other side of coin.

    April 27, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. marie

    Glendon – what a narrow minded person you are. I'm a catholic and I have no problem with the President giving the commencement speech at Notre Dame.

    April 27, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Sama Mondeh

    Let us get over it people. Like it or not Mr. Obama is President of the United States for the next four years. Each of us need to put aside our indidividual differences and work on what is best for the country. I am sure that there are more serious issues now facing the country than a commencement speech at Notre Dame or a Harvard professor refusing to accept an award because of how she feels about Obama. As far as I am concern, her refusal to accept the award is not reporting on CNN. It is only a publicity stunt. Please give the Professor some Cleanex tissue to wipe her tears!

    April 27, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. OldUncleTom

    In America, we all have the right of choice. While I disagree with the Professor's position, it is her right, as an American, to make it.

    I do, however, think it is also reasonable for Harvard Law to examine whether this professor has sufficient respect for the First Amendment rights and responsibilities that she teaches its principles appropriately.

    Our Constitution protects the policies and practices of the Catholic and other churches, both Christian and otherwise, by prohibiting in imposition of ANY church's dogma on the population as a whole.

    April 27, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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