Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia has taken a courageous public stance in favor of sanity and civility in public discourse. In response to the utterly appalling personal attack that disgraceful television hatemonger Rush Limbaugh launched against Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke, President DeGioia sent an email to the entire campus community, now posted on Georgetown’s website, in which he said this:
“In recent days, a law student of Georgetown, Sandra Fluke, offered her testimony regarding the proposed regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services before a group of members of Congress. She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression. And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position – including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels – responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.
“In our vibrant and diverse society, there always are important differences that need to be debated, with strong and legitimate beliefs held on all sides of challenging issues. The greatest contribution of the American project is the recognition that together, we can rely on civil discourse to engage the tensions that characterize these difficult issues, and work towards resolutions that balance deeply held and different perspectives. We have learned through painful experience that we must respect one another and we acknowledge that the best way to confront our differences is through constructive public debate. At times, the exercise of one person’s freedom may conflict with another’s. As Americans, we accept that the only answer to our differences is further engagement.”
I urge you to read his entire statement, click here.
As a Georgetown alumna, myself, a graduate of the law school where I also had the privilege of working in the Street Law Clinic and then administration for many years after graduation, I am so proud of the president’s clear and forthright statement.
I am also proud of Ms. Fluke’s courage and tenacity in the face of great provocation. First, she was denied a “place at the table” when she appeared to testify before Congressman Issa’s committee that was taking testimony on the proposed HHS regulations on contraception. Congressman Issa dismissed her as “not qualified” to testify before the committee, which had only men on the panel.
Then, as if that were not sufficiently insulting, Rush Limbaugh went on a truly vile rant against Ms. Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” and other disgusting inferences.
As President DeGioia states so eloquently, there are legitimate and profound issues of concern within the religious community and disagreement among reasonable people about whether employers, particularly religiously-affiliated institutions, should be forced to cover contraception in their healthcare packages for employees and students. I have written in support of religious liberty in this debate on the Huffington Post as well as on this Trinity blog.
Supporting religious liberty, however, does not mean indulging the kind of disrespectful, discriminatory and downright disordered behavior toward women that has been increasingly evident in the last few weeks. Religious leaders do not help their case when they stand idly by while the likes of Limbaugh engage in the most vicious form of assault on human dignity. Where is the respect for life in his ugly rhetoric? Where are the voices of our bishops standing up for the dignity and worth of women? Surely, disagreement does not mean we should tolerate dismissal, disrespect and degradation.
Thank you, President DeGioia, for putting this important message front and center. It’s time for other leaders to do the same!