Obama Misrepresents Catholic Schools

Recently visiting Northern Ireland for the G8 meeting at Lough Erne, President Obama said this during his now-traditional speech to local young people:

If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden—that too encourages division and discourages co-operation.

Northern Ireland has been plagued with sectarian resentment for over a century, and on first inspection one can understand, for a moment, the President’s point. Without a degree of assimilation between children at school, future peaceful co-existence between Catholic and Protestant is perhaps not made easier by living parallel lives in the community.

But the President chose his words carefully: they were not off the cuff but rather part of a prepared speech that had been through repeated iterations (one hopes) where his advisors and speech writers honed and crafted his words to give effect to the intentions the President sought to get across—and it is this that gives cause for concern.

Obama is a bad friend to Catholics, particularly in his own country: the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act famously threatens the freedoms of conscience and religion of faith-based organizations as well as private businesses that oppose artificial contraceptives and abortion.

As with healthcare, so with schooling: both are trumped and squashed by the President’s socialism—at least if you are Catholic. Contrast his recent comments to graduates at the historic black college Morehouse in Atlanta:

Be a good role model and set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know somebody who’s not on point, go back and bring that brother along—those who’ve been left behind, who haven’t had the same opportunities we have—they need to hear from you.

No criticisms about African-Americans having their schools and buildings and white Americans having theirs, then. The President is silent about the need for diversity when his own interest groups consider it harmful.

I wonder, as a Briton, whether his staffers had been doing a bit of Googling before drafting his Belfast speech. It is no coincidence that a new campaign to end state-funding of religious schooling was launched just before his visit. The so-called “Fair Admissions Campaign” pledges to “open up all state-funded schools to all children, without regard to religion.” Prominent in its list of supporters are trade unions, anti-religion campaigners and the Liberal Democrats—pretty much the British equivalent of the President’s own Democrat party.

The disingenuousness of the FAC’s motley crew, of unreconstructed Marxists and über-liberal self-hating religious who seek to hollow out the content of any restrictive religious practices in their desire to be as committed to their idea of “social justice” as possible, is breath-taking.

Take the “Inclusive Schools” Campaign in Richmond (‘RISC’), a leafy suburb in South West London. In response to over 1100 parents petitioning for two new Catholic schools to be built, the Diocese of Westminster agreed and put together the necessary proposals.  Rather than oppose the idea outright, the British Humanist Association and RISC sought an expensive and time-delaying judicial review on the grounds that schools which could “only” select 50% rather than 80% Catholic pupils would be within the law.

Mercifully, the backwoodsmen lost to the will of the local community.

Unlike the US, the British state funds religious schools. Most are Church of England and about 10% of all state schools—some 2150—are voluntary-aided primary (elementary) and second (high) schools run by the Catholic Church.

It’s not hard to fathom why Catholic and non-Catholic parents alike demand more Catholic-run schooling. Ofsted, the independent inspector of all schooling in Britain, produced data showing that, between 2005 and 2009, teaching and learning outcomes, curricular and extra-curricular activities, and the quality of care, guidance and support are all likely to be better in faith schools than non-faith schools.

Catholic schooling performed particularly well across the board in the personal development and maturation of pupils. Eight out of ten Catholic primary schools were likely to be judged “outstanding” in their overall effectiveness, compared to seven out of ten nationally. For secondary schools, the numbers were eight out of ten compared to only six out of ten nationally.

Not only are the standards better in Catholic schools than state-run secular schools in Britain, but they are more diverse: 27% pupils in Catholic schools are from ethnic minority backgrounds compared to 22.5% in other schools—but Catholics permanently expel almost a third fewer children (00.9% compared to 0.11%).

The data show Catholic schools promote diversity and tolerance in children beyond their state equivalents, and studies repeatedly show religious schooling as more conducive to building social cohesion and contributing to their community.

So President Obama was grasping for a familiar trope when he described religious schooling as particularly divisive. He wasn’t actually speaking to the Northern Irish people; he was stating his Administration’s line on religious schooling and its mistaken belief that confessional teaching fragments rather than binds.

The truth is, every child needs a robust, deep and nourishing standpoint from which to view all other viewpoints. Christian schooling emphasizes in its ethos the virtuous and responsible person, imbued with dignity and capable of reasonably and respectfully engaging with others. It produces citizens, not subjects.

Peter Smith


Peter Smith is a lawyer living and working in London. He has previously worked in Parliament for Sir Edward Leigh MP.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    No one can reasonably compare religious schools in mainland Britain with those in Northern Ireland.

    The fact of the matter is that many Catholics in Northern Ireland regard the partition of Ireland in 1921 as a brutal act of oppression by the British colonial power, its borders being drawn to ensure permanent Protestant rule. Likewise, many Protestants believe that they would be reduced to a state of dhimmitude in a united, predominantly Catholic, Ireland.

    Over some 40 years, during “The Troubles,” fanatics on both sides killed each other in quite large numbers, despite the efforts of a British army of occupation to prevent the province descending into civil war. Catholic disaffection and Protestant intransigence make the Peace Process fragile.

    As happened in France, between 1870 and 1958, too many Catholics in Northern Ireland, including not a few clergy and teachers, have turned faith into faction and invested Irish Nationalism, itself a legitimate aspiration, with the aura of religion.

    • publiusnj

      MPS draws an inaccurate “likewise” equivalency between the Orangemen’s fantasy that
      they would be reduced to “dhimmitude” in a United Ireland with the Irishmen’s
      historically verifiable claim that the Partition of Ireland in 1921 was a brutal
      act of oppression. WRONG. Proof? History.
      That brutal 1921 act of oppression
      did still result in abandonment of the British Crown’s claim over 2/3 of Ireland (I know the
      fiction was maintained of Royal Sovereignty for awhile longer but Ireland became
      free back in 1921 nevertheless) and thus we have a 92 year record to determine
      whether it is England or Ireland that oppresses. In that 92 years, Ireland has
      retained complete religious liberty while the Ulster government oppressed the
      Irish (Catholics) for the first fifty years until the Irish rose in revolt and
      the Troubles followed. So, the Protestants resident in Eire have never been
      subjected to dhimmitude, while the Catholics of all Ireland suffered dhimmitude
      until 1921 and the Irish (Catholics) of Northern Ireland continued to suffer in
      dhimmitude until 1998 (the Good Friday accords).

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Without a nation, one cannot have a democracy. The fact is that the island of Ireland contains, not one nation, but two. The Protestants of Ulster have as much right to their autonomous region as the Basques and Catalans of Spain, the Vlamingen and Walloons of Belgium, the Swedes of the Finnish Aland Islands or the French, German and Italian communities of Switzerland.

        • publiusnj

          The difference between Northern Ireland and any of those (more or less) autonomous regions is that the British Colonials who had colonized stolen portions of Ulster from the natives in the so-called “Plantations” have insisted on retaining control over as large a portion of the majority population as they were able to in 1921 even though Ulster (the Nine Counties thereof) actually had an Irish (Catholic majority). The Orange Rump State continues to maintain control over all the land brutally partitioned in 1921 despite the fact that large portions of Northern Ireland now have Irish (CATHOLIC) majorities now. If the Northern irish Rump State were divided on the the basis of areAS WITH MAJORITY iRISH (cATHOLIC)

        • slainte

          And the Scottish Highlanders of the clearance era had a right to their autonomous region as well, until the foreign landlords decided otherwise and evicted them.
          The majority of the Scottish Highlanders were Catholic and were thought to have originated from Gaelic Ireland.
          Ulster Irish Catholics were also subject to a clearance to pave the way for the Ulster Plantation, and the alleged “two nations” that you now speak of.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Except that most of the landlords were Scots. The most notorious was the Duke of Hamilton, of the Douglas family and the Duke of Montrose (chief of the Clan Graham) Another was the Duke of Argyll, “MacCailein Mòr” Chief of the Clan Campbell, whose family were granted many forfeited estates in the Highlands, after the ’45

            The only “foreigners” were of old Norman descent, settled in Scotland since the 12th century (Bruce, Fraser, Gordon, Ogilvie, Stuart) The Seymours, by the by, arrived at the same time, but from Saint Maur des Fossés, in the Ile de France

            Very little land in Scotland was held by English landowners, until they started buying shooting estates after the clearances and this did not amount to more than 5% of the total.

            • publiusnj

              This discussion, however interesting, about Scottish History is a detour. As to Northern Ireland, MPS has not challenged my showing that the Orange Rump State is far too large as it stands to cover any “autonomous region” for Ulster Protestants, even assuming–contrary to fact–that any such area were needed (given Eire’s unimpeachable record on Religious Freedom vis-a-vis the dismal record of the Confessional State called the United Kingdom).
              Clearly, the 6 county rump state is a last vestige of British Imperialism that needs to go. In fact, per the 2011 Census, there were just about as many Catholics (40.8%) as “non-Catholic Christians” (41.5%) in the Rump State. Since that “non-Catholic” category reflected non-Protestants such as the Eastern Orthodox, it may even be true that throughout N. Ireland, there are now more Catholics than Protestants. Yet the Rump State still exists with no autonomy for the many regions (e.g., Derry, Fermanagh) that are more Irish than British. Sauce for the goose….

            • slainte

              George Leveson-Gower and his wife Elizabeth assisted by a brutal agent Patrick Sellars. Ugly stuff; indefensible actions.

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                Again, he held the lands in right of his wife, a Gordon, daughter of the 18th Earl, an ancient Highland family. The Dukes of Gordon, in Morayshire, were staunchly Catholic, but Caithness and Sutherland had been strongholds of the Covenanters and were largely Presbyterian

                • slainte

                  Duchess Elizabeth, of Scottish birth, was a member of the Church of England (Anglican), spent the majority of her years residing in London where she received her education, married an English peer who was also the largest landowner in England, and raised four children all in England. Her husband an English Duke controlled her estates (as well as his own) and is reported to have actively participated in the Highland evictions. At best, the Duchess was an absentee landlord with minimal connections to Scotland other than managing estate investments.

                  During the clearance era, the Duke and Duchess declined
                  to recognize the fundamental humanity of Highlander estate tenants and subjected them to callous and barbaric abuses at the hands of factor Mr. Sellars. The Duchess’ contempt for her tenants was manifest in her reputed comment,”Scotch people are of happier constitution and do not fatten like the larger breed of animals.”

                  The Jacobite Uprising and the 1845 Battle of Culloden identified the Highlanders as unwelcome Catholic troublemakers. The England crown’s response was the imposition and enforcement of draconian penal laws (ie. 1746 Act of Proscription/Dress Act) which sought to crush the Catholic Gael identity and strip them of weapons. The eviction of Highlanders satisfied the cash flow needs of some untoward clan chiefs (landlords), but more importantly eliminated the threat of further uprisings against the English crown. Sheep in place of people worked well for both parties.

                  Poster Publiusnj rightly concludes that centuries of religious and ethnic repression must end. Unfortunately it is too late to
                  reverse the fate of the Scottish Highlanders, but it is not too late to advocate for a united Ireland where both Catholics and Protestants may co-exist peacefully; not as two separate nations as you advocate, but as one united nation.
                  Nearly a century of continuously peaceful coexistence between Catholics and Protestants in the Irish Republic support this proposition as both worthy and viable.

    • Lorr

      The British Army terrorized the catholics also. I know many people subjected to the end of their rifles. Traveling from the south to the north? Armed roadblocks! where you’re looking down the barrel of a gun. God forbid you’re catholic. Catholic education is a staple for catholics in their own country. Their own country! Northern Ireland does not belong to England, it belongs to Ireland, and it is the ‘supplanted’ protestant and their schools that need to withdraw or desist. Obama and his googling cronies know nothing about the history and subjugation of the irish masses. The one thing the irish managed to hold onto was the true faith directly from St. Peter. Not an adulterated faith of a divorce seeking, priest killing, king.

    • John_O_Neill

      In France between 1870 and 1958 there was open warfare waged against the Catholic Church by the secular government. Priests were restricted by secular law to speak on public matters etc. ; Catholic schools were shut down. The secularism of the modern French government was formed during this era; albeit a lot better than the senseless massacres of Catholics during the age of the French Revolution when Liberte, Fraternity and Equalite meant desecrating Catholic churches and killing off the clergy and religious. In Mexico during the 1920s a similar persecution against Catholics was waged by the Mexican communist government; another democratic institution which was claiming its love for humanity. In Spain in the 1930s another government persecution led by these same democrat loving mobs brought about wholesale slaughter of Catholics once more. Maybe Obama should look to his democrat roots if he wants to prevent violence and mob lynching from ruling the world.

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  • AcceptingReality

    The president is in no position to lecture anyone on anything, let alone division and co-operation.

  • somebigguy

    This is merely another thrust in Obama’s war against the Church. In 2012, shortly after Obama issued his HHS mandate, I alluded to this on my blog:

    “This assault on freedom of religion and conscience is only the latest move in a campaign that militant atheists have been waging for decades. Their malignant agenda manifests unbridled contempt for faith and reason, marriage and family, life and liberty, truth and beauty. Not coincidentally, these are hallmarks of western civilization, cultivated and preserved by the Church since the time of Christ. Is it any wonder, then, that Barack Obama and his associates are determined to neutralize the Catholic faith?”

    • ClintLowell

      The Catholic Church is slowly becoming the un-popular persecution target.

    • Alecto

      Please show me how it is Christian charity requires that we help him destroy it, because that is the real scandal!

  • lifeknight

    Reading the comments after the article, I realized how little I know about the conflicts in N. Ireland/England. However, I DO know that Americans (50% of Catholics) voted in for the SECOND time the most pro-death president in US history. It is not surprising with that kind of local “success,” Mr. O can feel comfortable taking his show “on the road.”

  • Alecto

    Obama’s inappropriate and ignorant remarks are nothing new. He’s Historic, therefore his remarks are unimpeachable. Nobel Peace Prizes, global adulation, honorary degrees from Notre Dame University, Georgetown and support from DePaul, Loyola, etc…tangible proof that Catholics, like anyone else, can be duped into the soft bigotry of low expectations even for the presidency.

    That this anti-Catholic, anti-British bigot was first mentored by Frank Marshall Davis, another virulent anti-Catholic communist bigot, escaped the notice of Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who subsequently mentored Obama. Or, did it? Catholics, having been indoctrinated in Catholic schools with enough socialist justice claptrap to fill St. Peters, overwhelmingly supported Obama from the very inception of his political career. Perhaps that’s why there is no shock and little outrage from Catholic quarters. Perhaps that is why Catholics are willing to sideline and cover our religious symbols when our Dear Leader condescends to pay a visit to Catholic schools in the U.S.? Let the honors continue! All bow to our one and only true messiah, Barak Hussein Obama!

    In a world made far more hostile and dangerous by his ineptitude, conceit and naivete, the least of anyone’s concerns ought to be the state of Catholic schools anywhere. Catholics have done enough to destroy their own schools. Obama’s vision is accomplished: fundamental transformation of a once free people into the same fearful, capitulating serfs that Britons are becoming. The same pugnacious fighters Churchill exhorted and extolled, the example of courage in the face of overwhelming odds, the stiff upper lips, have exchanged it for multicultural diversity programs and Sharia. When Obama’s first act as president was to return the bust of Churchill in the Oval Office, I thought him tacky as all get out. Now, I’m relieved. Churchill deserves better.

    • somebigguy

      Let’s keep in mind that identifying oneself as Catholic does not make one Catholic; it’s living the faith handed down through the Apostles and their successors that makes one Catholic.

      Again from my blog…

      “Pundits often note that Obama received 54 percent of the Catholic vote in 2008. I would argue that he and like-minded politicians have received very few votes from Catholics. It’s common knowledge that most Americans who describe themselves as Catholic do not practice the faith; low Mass attendance and the popularity of birth control serve as indicators. Having abandoned the faith, why are these voters considered Catholic? Excepting the grossly misinformed, no adherent to Catholic moral teaching would vote for an anti-life candidate when a reasonable alternative is on the ballot. While John McCain was not an ideal pick from a pro-life perspective, he certainly posed a lesser threat to human life than Barack Obama, who tried repeatedly to institutionalize infanticide in Illinois hospitals. Catholics are anything but perfect; we stumble and fall like anyone else. But we don’t vote for politicians who take their marching orders from Hell.”

  • I dont know why he does so..

  • ClintLowell

    Catholic’s want nothing more than Christian unity … but we do not need an infanticide, sodomy supporting humanist showing us the way.

  • Alecto

    Obama is giving his anti-coal, anti-energy speech today at…drumroll…Georgetown University. I understand there are wonderful, faithful and good Catholics, many of them post here and write for this site.

    What makes me cringe is the existence of far too many useful idiots among Catholics and I cannot understand it because it’s indefensible and incomprehensible! It’s shameful, it’s disgusting to allow Catholic schools to be used to further this man’s war on employment, on prosperity, on unity, on peace, on belief, on tradition, etc….

  • Carl Albert

    I am grounded in the notion that there are 2 groups of people in the world: those who talk, and those who do. I long ago relegated our president to the former, and tuned him and all his talk out altogether. but after reading Howard Kainz’s “The Anatomy of Sloth” (also on Crisis), I now believe myself to be lazy in this perception…

  • Uuncle Max

    One of the reasons John (boy) Kerry lost in 2004 (other than his being John Kerry) was that he lost the catholic (small c) vote.


    When he chose a VP candidate in 2008 BO chose one who wouldn’t say s..t if he had a mouthful and who is purportedly a catholic (again note small c) which BO noted when announcing his choice of Joe-Bob.

    New word – CINO, Catholic In Name Only.

    The Fortnight For Freedom is almost 1/2 half way through.

    Pray constantly – especially for Nancy and Joe-Bob and John-boy and Maryland Marty and Kansas Kathy and the Kennedy clan and the Cuomo mob

    We will get through this

    Be not afraid

  • poptoy1949

    Among other things. But he seems to really have it in for the Catholics. But what else do expect from a closet communist?

    • somebigguy

      Closet communist? Seems pretty out-in-the-open to me.

  • Lorr

    “Christian schooling emphasizes in its ethos the virtuous and responsible person, imbued with dignity and capable of reasonably and respectfully engaging with others. It produces citizens, not subjects.” Excellent! And that is what religious schools foster, free thinkers based on community serving morals and Gods laws, not government drones.

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  • Jeremy Rodell

    Looking at this from the viewpoint of someone a) living in the UK b) actively involved in the campaigns for fair admissions and against faith-based segregation, it seems there’s an irony here. Those from the US who are commenting on President Obama’s remarks in such a hostile way are no doubt the same people who argue for small government. And they come from a country with a strong separation of church and state.

    No one in the UK, as far as I know, is arguing against the right of Catholics, or any other faith group, to set up schools and send their children to them, even though it may be undesirable from a community cohesion view point. Indeed there are a number of such schools, so quite famous. What we’re arguing against is TAXPAYER-FUNDED schools that then discriminate against children of some of the taxpayers because their parents have the “wrong” beliefs, and/or create community divisions with consequences that the rest of us then have to suffer and/or pay for (and I speak as someone who worked in London at the time of the IRA bombings, and is now suffering the consequences of poor integration of parts of the Muslim community).

    Anyone who tried that in the US – say for taxpayer-funded Muslim schools (we have those too by the way) – would presumably be attacked by the same people who are so vociferous here.