A new petition asks University of Notre Dame president Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., to request that charges be dropped against the 88 pro-life protesters arrested on the university campus during the controversy over President Barack Obama’s May 2009 commencement speech.
The petition is co-sponsored by Human Life International (HLI), the Chicago-based Thomas More Society and LifeSiteNews.com.
"During the Obama scandal controversy, Fr. Jenkins repeatedly assured us that he and Notre Dame are 100 percent pro-life. Yet, now he is refusing even this tiniest of olive branches to these 88 pro-lifers," charged Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, HLI President and Notre Dame Alumnus.
“Asking that the charges be dropped will cost Fr. Jenkins absolutely nothing, but it could save the ND88 from a protracted trial process, and possible jail time. As long as this situation persists with Notre Dame's cooperation, how can Fr. Jenkins possibly expect us to take him seriously?" Fr. Euteneuer said.
Many of the protesters’ activities on campus took the form of prayer and pro-life signs. Though these protesters were arrested, witnesses reported that pro-Obama demonstrators were allowed to walk throughout the campus, an announcement for the petition says.
The protesters’ attorneys have argued that Notre Dame campus police exercised state arrest powers in a manner that was “viewpoint discriminatory.”
The arrested protesters, called the “Notre Dame 88,” face charges of trespassing with a maximum sentence of up to a year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. They are being represented by the Thomas More Society.
Thomas Brejcha, Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Society, said that Notre Dame “seriously tarnished its pro-life image when it honored President Obama earlier this year.”
“However, it is not too late for the university to restore its pro-life reputation. The first step in that direction would be to stop the persecution of these pro-life heroes by asking that the charges be dropped."
Notre Dame has claimed that it does not have the power to ask that the charges be dropped, but Brejcha said that was “flatly wrong.”
"They always have the power to ask," he said, noting the university would have “great weight” with the prosecutor.
Brejcha said it is important for pro-life advocates to let Fr. Jenkins know they have not forgotten the events on campus last May.
“We have not forgotten, and we will not forget as long as the ND88 are being forced to pay such a steep price simply for standing up for the pro-life values that Jenkins and Notre Dame profess to hold,” he added.
A web site backing the arrested protesters is at http://freethend88.org/