By Kathleen Gilbert and John Jalsevac
SOUTH BEND, Indiana, April 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - While numerous pro-life protesters who were arrested for trespassing at the University of Notre Dame last year continue to face up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine, anti-military and pro-gay demonstrators who were previously arrested on campus had their charges dropped, according to a shocking new investigation by the Sycamore Trust. Furthermore, the president of the University, Fr. John Jenkins, has reportedly refused to discuss the disparate treatment.
William Dempsey, Notre Dame alumnus and president of the Sycamore Trust, notes in the organization's latest bulletin that Jenkins has responded to inquiries about the pro-lifers (who were arrested last May while peacefully protesting Obama’s commencement speech and honorary degree) by saying that, "The University cannot have one set of rules for causes we oppose, and another more lenient set of rules for causes we support. We have one consistent set of rules for demonstrations on campus – no matter the cause."
While Notre Dame does not have power to drop the charges, the University's recommendation to dismiss would likely carry great weight with the St. Joseph County prosecutor.
Dempsey says that "we doubted that any organization would saddle itself with such an inflexible policy." Hence, his organization set about investigating how past trespassers have been treated.
It turns out that members of the pro-gay group Soulforce, and Catholic Worker anti-ROTC demonstrators, who were arrested for trespassing on campus in March 2007, were let off scot free. Dempsey says that he interviewed participants in each case, who "all state that, after they were taken into custody and processed on the campus, they were released and heard nothing more." It is unclear whether the decision not to pursue the cases further was made by the university or the district prosecutors, although the Trust suggests that it originated with the university.
Having related the information to Notre Dame, says Dempsey, a spokesman replied that "this exchange is no longer serving any purpose from our perspective, and, as a result, we have decided to discontinue communications with you on this topic."
After writing Fr. Jenkins, the Trust reported that "his brief response was not encouraging."
"He seconded the spokesman’s termination of the discussion and he characterized as 'not warranted' unidentified 'inferences' and 'assumptions' in Bill Dempsey’s wide-ranging exchanges with the University spokesman, but he did not dispute the facts respecting the Soulforce and Catholic Workers arrests."
"The stark facts, then," the Trust alleges, "are that the University has treated pro-gay and anti-military demonstrators far more generously than pro-life demonstrators and that it declines to explain why.
"The mystery of the University’s attitude toward the pro-life demonstrators deepens."
The bulletin further points out how the prosecution of the pro-life "Notre Dame 88" can and already has wreaked havoc on the defendants' lives, even prior to sentencing: the Trust reports that one defendant and her husband have already been declined as foster parents thanks to the trespassing charges.
"The University’s position is bewildering, for there are many compelling reasons for the University to recommend to the prosecutor that he drop these cases," notes the group. "The University’s stance obviously impairs Father Jenkins’s post-Obama efforts to shore up Notre Dame’s pro-life credentials. The demonstrators are intensely dedicated and include many notably sympathetic individuals."
"The question, then, is why the University persists in endorsing these prosecutions."