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Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
When President Barack Obama appeared at Notre Dame in 2009 to accept an honorary law degree and deliver the university's commencement address, he did not dodge the fact that he favored legalized abortion and that Notre Dame -- and the Catholic Church to which it belongs -- does not.

Obama went so far as to suggest that the wholesale state-sanctioned killing of innocent human beings in their mothers' wombs was just one of those things that intelligent, well-educated people in a civilized society ought to be able to agreeably disagree about.

Indeed, he condescended so far as to say that in his health care policies he would protect the consciences of those who did not want to be complicit in other people's abortions.

"Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Obama said. "Those are things we can do."

This week, Notre Dame sued Obama's administration, filing a complaint in federal court that is a systematic expose of the utter contempt the administration has shown for the consciences of those associated with Notre Dame and of Catholics in general.

In its complaint, Notre Dame explains that Obama secured passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") only by convincing "pro-life" Democrats that no one in his administration would use the act to fund abortions or force people to act against their consciences.

"Congressman Stupak and other pro-life House members indicated that they would refuse to vote for the Senate version because it failed adequately to prohibit federal funding of abortion," says Notre Dame's complaint. "To appease these representatives, President Obama issued an executive order providing that no executive agency would authorize the federal funding of abortion services.

"The Act was, therefore, passed based on the central premise that all agencies would uphold and follow 'longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience' and to prohibit federal funding of abortion," says Notre Dame.

"That executive order," says Notre Dame, "was consistent with a 2009 speech that President Obama gave at Notre Dame, in which he indicated that his administration would honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft sensible conscience clauses."

Obama's executive order stated: "Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience ... remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions."

Obama, of course, did not tell the truth at Notre Dame. He did not tell the truth to Bart Stupak. He did not tell the truth in his executive order.

Notre Dame makes this quite clearly in its court filing.

"In stark contrast with the agreement essential to passage of the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's promise to protect religious liberty, the HHS's new guidelines required insurers and group health plans to cover 'all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity,'" says the university's complaint.

"FDA-approved contraceptives that qualify under these guidelines include drugs that induce abortions," says Notre Dame. "For example, the FDA has approved 'emergency contraceptives' such as the morning-after pill (otherwise known as Plan B), which operates by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the womb, and Ulipristal (otherwise known as HRP 2000 or Ella), which likewise can induce abortions of living embryos."

Not only did Obama fail to protect the consciences of American Catholics and Catholic institutions, including Notre Dame, he directly attacked their freedom of conscience through a regulation that requires virtually all Catholic lay people to buy, and virtually all Catholic institutions to provide, health-insurance plans that cover, without any fees or co-pay, multiple practices that violate the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Notre Dame states this, too, repeatedly -- and with force -- in its complaint against the Obama administration.

"All of the required 'contraceptive methods' and 'sterilization procedures' violate Notre Dame's well-established and sincerely held religious beliefs that prohibit contraception and sterilization to inhibit procreation," says Notre Dame.

"Notre Dame cannot, without violating its sincerely held religious beliefs, subsidize, facilitate, and/or sponsor coverage for abortifacients, sterilization services, contraceptives and related counseling services, which are inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church," says the university.

"This unprecedented, direct assault on the religious beliefs of Notre Dame and all Catholics is irreconcilable with American law," says Notre Dame.

Three years ago, when Obama spoke at Notre Dame, I optimistically wrote that a rising generation of Americans may see Notre Dame's greatest comeback -- not on an athletic field but in a conflict over fundamental questions of morality on which the Catholic Church takes an inalterable stand.

Well, the Fighting Irish just ran the first play in their comeback drive. It was nothing fancy -- just a crashing blow through the right side of the line, the sort of smash-mouth play a strong and confident team can run for first down after first down until they push across the opponent's goal line.

Americans who love our Constitution and individual liberty should send a volley cheer on high and shake down the thunder from the sky.

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