Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Civility is hard to find in American politics nowadays, but one Roman Catholic university is doing what it can to dial things back a bit.
On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh blasted Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified before Congress in favor of contraceptive coverage in health plans, as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
Friday, President John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University, in a public message called "On Civility and Public Discourse," praised Fluke for providing “a model of civil discourse.”
DeGioia took no position on the question that started this latest skirmish in our ongoing culture wars: contraceptive coverage in health care. But he did not mince words when it came to Limbaugh, who doubled down on Thursday by saying, “I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want.”
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DeGioia wrote that Limbaugh’s behavior was “misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”
Meanwhile, over 100 professors and staff members at Georgetown University Law Center signed a letter supporting Fluke. "As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them," the letter says.
In a sign that U.S. politics really has turned sharply from economic debates to cultural warfare, President Obama called Fluke to offer his support just before she was to talk on NBC with Andrea Mitchell.
Carly Fiorina, National Republican Senatorial Committee vice-chairwoman, appearing on CBS, called Limbaugh’s language “insulting,” “incendiary,” and “a distraction from what are very real and important issues.” A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was more measured, saying, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.” Meanwhile, Rick Santorum told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Limbaugh’s comments were “absurd.”
Limbaugh apologized to Fluke on Saturday, saying a statement on his website, “I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”
Both Fluke and DeGioia, however, focused on this battle as a moment in the rapid degradation of our common life.
Fluke told MSNBC's "The Ed Show" that Limbaugh's remarks were "outside the bounds of civil discourse."
Similarly, DeGioia’s overall message was a call to return to a tradition of tolerance that some conservatives, at least, have forgotten to conserve.
This tradition runs deep in the American grain, from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address (“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies”) to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address (“Civility is not a sign of weakness”).
But DeGioia ended with St. Augustine: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us.”
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
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If I were this young girl I would sue his ears off. I believe completely in free speech, but this goes beyond the fringe. What about HER rights to express an opinion. I ,PERSONALLY, would like to see him and his ilk off the air – he totally revolts me! And that is MY opinion!
Really beyond the fringe of what? You believe in free speech as long as it's what you want to hear. Should you be sued for what you just posted? Get a grip.
Sam doesn't understand what "beyond the fringe" means. It means he SLANDERED HER....get it yet? free speech does not include SLANDER. I will be very disappointed if she doesn't sue him.
Hey Georgetown, my recommendation is that you ask Rush to send a thousand cases of aspirin to your health clinic. After all, he made a very public promise to buy all the aspirin you want. If he refuses, sue him.
sorry for the double post. computer froze
A lot of decent people died last week during the tornado outbreak but Rush Limbaugh is still alive. There is something dreadfully wrong with this picture.
More proof of God's non-existence...
God doesn't want him, he works for the Devil.
Rush is a perfect example of the disease that has infected the Republican party of Today.
You have lost your way Rush and GOP. You are Ill.
The GOP's fault. They embrace nut cases like this for immediate attention... It is all catching up to them as the party will fall apart in the next decade. Shame because outside the social conservative loony bin there are many important conservative philosophies that will be lost.
Rush is the perfect example of the diseased that has infected the Republican party of today.
You have lost your way Rush and GOP. You are ill
You have anything meaningful to say or just name calling? I thought not. You are the sick one.
Sam, Sam, Sam.....you think that saying someone is "Ill" is "name calling"? Go away until you can come up with a meaningful post.
As a Graduate student in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, I could not be more proud or humbled by the class and civility with which Sandra Fluke testified on the Hill. Moreover, a sense of hope was renewed in me upon reading the message from Georgetown President DeGioia, who boldly stood up not just for a fellow student, but for all women. Let us take this time to reflect upon where we are and where we are headed as a country if discourse like this is permitted, both from the Right and from the Left. To be sure, this should not even be a partisan issue at all – it is one that speaks to our culture and to our humanity. Now that the debate has surfaced, it is time to re-examine our values and move forward appropriately with courage, understanding and civility, the very qualities that have made this country great.
Thanks for your excellent post!
So Georgetown President DeGioia has changed the policy?
Now is not the time to be polite. She needs to fight back and go to court. File a complaint with the FCC, if they still exist. Anything, something but take some action.
I agree that it is time to examine our values. I am very proud of the Georgetown response.
Sandra Fluke has more class, integrity, intelligence and guts than anyone could ever show. She has so much class I would bet she will not sue him because she doesn't want to escalate the situation FOR THE COUNTRY'S SAKE! I am in total admiration of her.
PLEASE "Off The Pigs" stop insulting pigs by equating them to Limbaugh, they are the smartest barn yard animal & in a lot of ways are similar to us. POWER TO THE PIGS!!!!!!
Still waiting for the evangelicals to honor their reglious convictions and denounce this GOP de facto leader.
Evangelicals feel the same way as Rush, they believe, they have faith in Rush.
Georgetown University should be worring about the amount of time its students are spending having S ex, not trashing Limbaugh for bringing this obvious widespread problem to the attention of the world. Contraception issues would not be a problem for young women if they would practice a little more abstinence. Lets' put the onus on their se x partners to provide their contraception needs not the tax payers. Promoting the uncontrolled proliferation of recreational se x is just wrong! Period!
You realise that by attempting to increase the availibility of contraceptives and providing increased medical support to women they are attempting to add a layer of control to your percieved "recreational sx" problem right?
You,Sir, Have no business on this forum.
A bonafide Santorum supporter that thinks s e x is naughty and should only be done for procreation. Did you miss the s e xual revolution? I feel sorry for you. When you meet your maker he will be mad at you for NOT enjoying the gift he gave you.
You really don't have se x very often do you? Hi, these people are adults and as such they can do as they please as long as it isn't illegal. It's *NOT* your place to tell them what they can do. Or do you think people should be able to tell you what to do, what to think, and how to spend your time. Repeat after me, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". Try following the Word instead of just reading it.
Do you live in a cave with no human contact? Who died and made you God?
Pull up your pants, spit out the cheetos
and take your finger out of your nose.
Why do we let six year olds post ?
"A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was more measured, saying, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate"
What an absolute coward. First, he couldn't make the lame statement himself – secondly, I wonder what words would have been more appropriate in labeling Ms. Fluke a sl ut? Saying his words were "inappropriate" does not denounce the intention. An absolute coward – just like Romney and Santorum who dismissed the incivility by claiming rush is an "entertainer" and by stating that those were not the words he would have chosen. I'm astounded at their lack of courage in standing up for respect and common decency.
Rush Limbaugh is a pig. His sad, little piglet comments have served to help guide our beloved country into the sewer. But the real issue is...how many people dutifully gulp down his vitriolic swill day after day. Have we become so lost as a nation that someone with Limbaugh"s limited, perverse and hateful view of the world is even, for one tiny moment, considered as intelligent discourse? Rush Limbaugh is a pig and a bully manipulator. He's laughing all the way to the bank while getting fatter and fatter (literally) in a society where too many people actually confuse anything this dope says as important. I would gladly pay my taxes to help the women and men of this country with birth control needs as a universal right...just as a vile jughead like Rush Limbaugh enjoys the privileges of national free speech.
Pigs are nice, he is pig excrement.
George Will has it right – the GOP can takl tough about Iran but are weak kneee girly guys when it comes to their de factor leader Rush!
I see and so someone like Bill Ayers is the Democratic Defacto leader right? He is one man who said something he shouldn't have and you judge everyone as a result, typical liberal hypocrisy. Amazing you guys are all about free speech as long as it's something you want to hear.
I don`t like calling Rush Pig ,a Pig is much better Animal then him I think he is just Virus. Republicans have you no shame ?
The GOP says this is about "religious freedom." They I guess they have no objection to Mormons practicing Polygamy, right?
He should blame it on his drags
Prayer changes things.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.
Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam.
Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
Spam spam spam spam!
Prayer doesn't change anything. Hard work, ambition, and determination change things. Employ your method and then mine and see which one works out better for you.
I pray Rush loses all his sponsors and ends up homeless on the street begging for Oxy from his card board box.
Nazis march in Skokie.
Rush goose steps on the radio.
Clear Channel Inc makes money on it.
Its about time we discuss family planning.
Huff post mentions 98% of Catholics prefer contraception to avoid abortions.
In 1994, the UN agreed 100% that OVERPOPULATION is THE GREATEST threat to humanity. Now, they fear it is too late to solve this.
Over population equates to:
diminishing resources, causing higher prices.
too many compete for same jobs, so unemployment is increasing
Loss of Jobs cause economic collapse, failed states, revolts and war.
Government's chief science advisor Dr. Beddington warns of a "perfect storm" of food, energy and water shortages by 2030.
Unless we heed this warning, humanity like the dinosaurs, will also become extinct in about 100 years!! ( Dr. Fenner- chicken pox)
HOW CAN LIMBAUGH SHOW SUCH IGNORANCE and DISRESPECT, AND BE STILL ADORED BY REPUBLICANS?
http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/index.php?page=view&nr...39 – Cached – Similar
Liberal Family Planning: Use contraception paid by insurance. (Shouldn't condoms also be free?). If contraception fails or it's not used, abort babies. It's cheaper to abort than to raise a child. Anyways we don't want too many children because of overpopulation. If overpopulation is a problem, then China has the right policy. We are going that way any way. The GOVERNMENT is dictating what we can do and not do.
BAloney. Piled high, wide and deep. As usual, Mikey.
Of course, you are correct. The only thing that drives Republicans is not jobs, education, religious freedom for all...is their hatred of our President. Putting a whack job the likes of Romney or Santorum trumps everything that good for America.
No one in American politics more resembles a pig than Rush Limbaugh. He is the most porcine mud-wallower out there.
A '10' for using "porcine."
Pigs are nice and quite intelligent, Rush is pig excrement, he is the feces of the GOP, oops I meant face.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.