ND administration prohibits gay ads
By Tim Logan
The University has set forth a new advertising policy for The Observer which specifically bans acceptance of advertisements from Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s (GALA-ND/SMC) and prohibits ads from “outside groups that, directly or indirectly, espouse positions contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
This change in policy, coming two years after release of the Spirit of Inclusion Statement, once again raises questions about the University’s stance — and the Catholic Church’s teachings — with regard to homosexuality.
The statement, described in a letter from the Office of the President of the University, came in response to Observer editor in chief Michelle Krupa’s May request for a definitive and written directive regarding GALA ads.
The policy, implemented by the University in its legal capacity as publisher of the newspaper, is intended to reflect the “spirit” of the administration’s stance on the matter, according to assistant to the president Chandra Johnson, who authored the letter.
“Because we are a Catholic institution, we uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church,” she said. “We’ve made a blanket statement against GALA.”
While the letter only mentions specifically the gay association, it also states “a pro-choice organization or an abortion clinic would not be allowed to advertise.”
The rationale of the policy
Johnson expressed hope the policy would be recognized by other groups which may want to advertise and thus serve to defuse misunderstandings.
“Our hope is that as the policy stands for this issue there would be a pervasiveness that would apply to similar groups,” she said.
GALA, which is not affiliated in any way with the University, is banned from advertising for two reasons, Johnson said.
The first is its close ties with the student group OutReach ND, formerly Gays and Lesbians of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College (GLND/SMC). That organization was denied recognition as a University student group in 1995 because, according to administrators, its mission is not consistent with Church teaching.
Unrecognized groups may not advertise in campus media, and according to Johnson’s letter, “GLND is the principle beneficiary of [GALA’s] ads,” thus implying GLND/SMC is, in fact, a recognized University group.
The alumni group’s implied opposition to Catholic moral teachings is the second reason GALA may not run ads, the letter read. The University studied the group’s mission statement and stances and concluded it espoused objectionable opinions, Johnson said.
GALA representatives dispute this conclusion.
“GALA has never taken a stance that would contradict the stance of the Catholic Church,” said John Blandford, chairman of the group of more than 700. “To assert that we’ve done so is simply a lie.”
The organization’s mission statement focuses on supporting the student group OutReach ND and the interests of gay and lesbian alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. The last advertisement GALA ran in The Observer, on May 15, congratulated gay and lesbian graduates and invited them to join the organization.
Blandford attacked the administration’s assumption that his group is opposed to the Catholic Church.
“The assertion here is that GALA espouses positions contrary to the Catholic Church. I find this wholly offensive,” he said. “It goes to the issue of prejudiced policies that drive this administration.”
The Spirit of Inclusion, adopted by the Officers of the University in August 1997, calls the Notre Dame community to “create an environment of mutual respect, hospitality and warmth in which none are strangers and all may flourish.”
A source of controversy since its adoption, the Statement was written in lieu of the legally binding addition of sexual orientation to the University’s non-discrimination clause.
Administrators claimed addition of such a clause would make Notre Dame vulnerable to civil courts’ interpretation of Church doctrine and could be taken as University approval of homosexual acts.
“Within society at large, the phrase ‘sexual orientation’ sometimes becomes a term that does not admit of distinction between sexual orientation and the manner in which people live out their sexual orientation — a distinction that is critical to us as a Catholic institution,” wrote University president Father Edward Malloy in a letter accompanying the Statement.
The written statement is intended to reflect the spirit of the University’s position, not to serve as permanent policy, according to Johnson. Decisions on advertising eligibility will be made on a case-by-case basis. This will enable administrators and group leaders to apply and modify the guidelines to situations as they come up.
“It continues the conversation,” she said. “It’s the very nature of the Church.”
The Observer has complete editorial independence from the University, but accepts some advertising regulation because the University has partial control of its finances and allows the newspaper to collect annually a $12 circulation fee from each Notre Dame student.
All News Stories for Friday, August 27, 1999