Student Slander and Provocation Unchecked

BY SYCAMORE TRUST, OCTOBER 8, 2019

Intimidation on@NotreDame’s campus against individuals and groups upholding Catholic teaching on homosexual sex #GoCatholicNDCLICK TO TWEET

In one of the most indefensible, and perhaps consequential, decisions of his tenure, Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins has declined to condemn, or even criticize, a vile and inflammatory assault via poster and video by a group of students on other students, alumni and faculty for upholding the Church’s teaching on homosexual sex. The student organizations Irish Rover and SCOP were also targeted, as was Sycamore Trust.

  This is a serious matter. Please attend to our Action Note at the end of this bulletin. 

The series of lamentable events began with a poster, continued through a screed published in the Notre Dame Observer, and ended with an ugly and intimidating video.

The Poster

On September 25, The Irish Rover, the independent Notre Dame student publication, reported that a week earlier some then-unknown students had planted a large sign at the heart of the campus with the words “There is Queer Blood on Homophobic Hands”  blazoned across it.

The sign, which heads this bulletin, reproduced pages from the Irish Rover and another student publication, the Observer, that reflected Catholic doctrine on homosexual and transgender issues.

“Most shockingly,” the Rover reported, “the sign’s message was painted in blood red, the names of the articles’ writers were all circled in blood-red paint,” and “among the names were those of current students, faculty, and alumni of the University.”

The ND police removed the sign, the Rover reported, but only after “it had been shared widely on social media.”

The Observer Rant

Notre Dame Observer There’s queer blood on homophobic hands

A few days later, the Observer recklessly published a deeply disturbing free verse malediction by a student, Audrey Lindeman, echoing the anger of the poster.

Explicitly targeting the student organizations SCOP, the Rover, and Young Americans for Freedom, together with Sycamore Trust, she wished “the murdered trans angels (18 this year yet) [would] leak brimstone into yourpraying mouths.”

She continued: your cowardly pontification is a cultural bullet at the gay massacre you burned us you beat us in alleys you watched us die of AIDS and yet I’m here, laying waste to your reproductive futurism.

The Video

The Observer piece ended with a link to the incendiary climax of this series of denunciations, a video that was billed as “a response to recent articles in the Irish Rover about a sign posted on campus, along with an article about gender identity written by faculty” and the “multiple transphobic lectures hosted by Students for Child Oriented Policy.”

In the video, Ms. Lindeman recites her Observer jeremiad while another student holds up a copy of The Irish Rover, a third holds up a sign lettered in red “Queer Phobic Discourse is Violence,” and a fourth repeatedly bashes with a crowbar the original poster with its targeted names and clips.

Every reader should watch this video. It is impossible to convey in words its angry and unsettling overtones. We have preserved it here against the possibility it will be taken down when this bulletin is published. 

As prominent Notre Dame Law School professor Richard Garnett wrote on a legal blog site, this “anti-Catholic hate speech” performance “can reasonably be regarded as a kind of fantasy about inflicting violence (using a crowbar) against the offending writers, some of whom are their fellow students.”

Campus Reaction

The Irish Rover reported that the student body president declined to comment about the poster and that the Student Government’s director of gender relations “shared her support for the sign”on her Twitter account.

Otherwise on campus, doubtless inner consternation in some quarters, but outward silence. Intimidation and fear of being lumped with the Rover, SCOP, Sycamore Trust, and other defenders of Church “homophobic” teaching are powerful motivators — especially when the administration has buckled, as we show below.

Since the Rover viewed the poster “as an attempt to silence the paper and the presentation of Catholic teaching on controversial issues” and as harassment, it filed harassment reports with the ND Police and the university

No word on that yet.

Father Jenkins

On October 1, Bill Dempsey, chairman of Sycamore Trust, wrote Father Jenkins that “the malignant poster and venomous video” must be “major violations” of the university’s “Standards of Conduct” and also “seem plainly to violate Indiana’s ‘intimidation law,’ which makes it a crime to incite violence or to take action intended to expose a person ‘to hatred, contempt, disgrace, or ridicule.’”

He concluded:

Since we are included as targets…[w]e respectfully ask what you intend to do about it…. As an immediate step, we strongly urge you to require the incendiary video be taken down. The longer it spews hatred, the more the risk of another Virginia Tech.

Prominent author and commentator Rod Dreher also wondered what the university’s “going to do about it,” for “a line has been crossed” and there is risk of violence:

Whoever put this sign up slandered others at Notre Dame, attacked free speech, and is clearly trying to incite violence against them with that kind of incendiary rhetoric and symbolism. [“Anti-Catholic Hate at Notre Dame“]

After he saw the video, Dreher published Lindeman’s “deranged poem” together with Bill’s letter, and observed,

[I]f I were on Notre Dame’s campus, and had been targeted by her with such malicious invective, and my image had been subject to a beating with a crowbar, I would be worried. [“Scary Threats at Notre Dame“]

Two alumna of Notre Dame and the Rover, Alexandra DeSanctis and Kate Hardiman, writing respectively for the National Review and the Washington Examiner, were among those in the media covering this affair. Their articles underscore the deplorable character of both the students’ action and the administration’s continued silence.

Conclusion

Demonizing and intimidating those who support Church teaching about homosexual sex is the preferred, and increasingly successful, weapon of radical LGBT forces. Until now an effective but subtle force at Notre Dame, it has suddenly surfaced full-blown in an especially threatening way. It is both lamentable and alarming, if perhaps not entirely surprising, to see it smother even a whisper of criticism from Father Jenkins, otherwise a champion of civility, who is charged with insuring the safety of students and the freedom of faculty and students to explain and defend the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Action Note

 This is a serious matter. As Rod Dreher observes, the administration’s passive toleration of these provocative actions by angry students should concern anyone with a stake in campus safety.   To be sure, the risk of violence is probably quite remote. So, too, is the risk of being struck by lightning. But people are struck by lightning, and Virginia Tech and its kin drive home the lesson that mentally unstable people with grievances quite unpredictably do break and kill on campuses and in churches.

We urge everyone who shares our concern to write Father Jenkins. Parents and grandparents in particular have a right to expect the University to deal with this provocation decisively. Use both these addresses:

jjenkins@nd.edu

president@nd.edu

Don’t be satisfied with boilerplate assurances. Father Jenkins should condemn the students’ action, direct them to take down the video, hold them to account, and issue a stern warning against future transgressions.

Feel free to contact us about this. We would appreciate receiving copies of communications with the university so that we can better judge our future course.

https://sycamoretrust.org/student-slander-and-provocation-unchecked