My Take: Georgetown backs Fluke vs. Limbaugh for civility's sake
Rush Limbaugh apologized on Saturday for his "insulting word choices" targeting Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke.
March 4th, 2012
07:40 AM ET

My Take: Georgetown backs Fluke vs. Limbaugh for civility's sake

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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- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Church and state • Culture wars • Health care • Opinion • Politics • Sex • Sexuality • United States

soundoff (730 Responses)
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  5. Wow

    What a surprise Georgetown backs Fluke, I thought they would back Limbaugh.?? What happened? Why is everyone so afraid of Rush Limbaugh? I'll tell you why, because he's not afraid to tell it like it is, and there is a huge following that resonates with that, that will continue to grow. So lefties -cry cry cry cry, cry your eyes out, throw your tantrums – music to my ears, it's a beautful things.

    April 24, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      Keep telling yourself that, maybe one day you'll convince a child.

      May 5, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      We're not afraid of Rush. We are sickened by his disgusting and purile world view.

      May 26, 2012 at 5:09 am |
  6. Mark Mathews

    The Democrat Party: Killing unborn babies since 1973. (and Allah is proud of you).

    March 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Susie

      Yes but they are doing it in a CIVIL manner so it is OK. (Sarcasm off.)

      March 8, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Dolt!!! Abortion is not legal past the first tri-mester. So it doesn't matter what a book teaches you, the laws of the land are what matter, nothing else! It is a women's body and not your business what she does with it! You christards need to learn to stay out of peoples bedrooms!

      March 8, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • E

      You think Republican women don't get abortions? HA HA HA HA

      March 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Paul Della Villa

      How about those retroactive abortions administrated by those bombs dropped on Iraq?

      April 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  7. Rex Bovee

    Does anyone else remember when, back in the 1970s, either Dear Abby's or Ann Landers' mention of the "Aspirin Method" resulted in many enthusiastic collegiate couples disproving the, um, concept?

    March 7, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  8. Lib Lab

    Interesting how the libs have successfully spun the actual issue, "the right to practice one's religious beliefs without government intrusion", into a "right to contraception" argument. What's more, they're getting the entire US population of strained-brains to play along. Well done, well done indeed.

    Liblabs of the world, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains!

    March 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • E

      hospitals that accept federal funds are not churches.

      March 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • David m

      Please do not mistake not getting your way with an attack on religion. Christian Scientists do not believe in traditional medicine. Are you saying if my employer ia christian scientists it is okay for him to not provide insurance? The core of the discussion was actually about using hormone therapy to control ovarian cysts being declined because the same medicine is also used for birth control. If you don't think the catholics would stoop to distorting the record please see their records on protecting child abusers.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  9. MeMelvin

    I am having a hard time quelling my anger at Rush. His behavior is getting worse with age.
    Is that how GOPers want to be seen? Grumpy Old People?

    March 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Getting worse eh? That's saying something.

      May 5, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  10. momoya

    Just spoke with Netflix.

    They purchased a block of advertisement that was dispersed across many media outlets; they did NOT specifically buy or want to buy any time on Rush's show.. They have discussed the issue with the 3rd party advertiser and now have solid verification that their ads will not run on Limbaugh's program.

    I recognize that from the reader's point of view this is "hearsay," but it is exactly what they told me.

    March 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  11. CyberActivist

    Having the likes of Rush Lamebaugh on the air is the price we pay for our right to freedom of speech.

    Poor Rush, he really gave it his all on this one. He was sure that his radio savvy and comments would jettison him to higher ratings. Oops!

    Not to make light of Ms. Fluke's unfortunate situation, but, this should also serve as a wake up call that there are some people out there that actually think Rush is a legitimate commentator.

    This makes me wonder if Rush has a little "liberal" doll laying around the house that he is now tearing the arms and legs off of it while screaming;; " You damn liberals are responsible for this"?

    March 6, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Mark Mathews

      When, in the end, God allows Satan to tear the arms and legs off progressive liberals, I only hope I can watch from above, with a smug grin on my face which I hope those same tools will be able to see, and not be rid of, during their eternal stay.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Wow

      Rush is a good man and a moral straight person, you should really listen to him. He gets a little carried away with himself sometimes, acts immature – but who cares? whos perfect. The problem the liberals and democrats have with Rush, is how effective, preceptive he is about the truth. Hey lefties I got news for you – the truth is the truth- and in the end to truth will prevail. You can try to divert peoples attention from the truth, before they have the chances to see it themselves- but it's only a delaying tactic. Im sure you know exactly what im talking about. Keep the faith Rush.

      April 24, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 6, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • Jesus

      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!

      March 7, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Susie

      Actually you are wrong. Research supports the effacasy of prayer. Go find research done after 1890

      March 8, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  13. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    What Obama, the Senate, the House, Georgetown U and all global citizens should address:

    (Limbaugh should take early retirement as he is showing signs of insanity.)

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter.

    March 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • .....

      Hit report abuse on all reality garbage

      March 6, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • Beth Haney

      uuhhhm? whats this have to do with Rush comment and this deranged chicks desire to fluck all the time? while your stats maybe truthful (i didnt check them nor read your entire comment), you are off track with the issue. Rush is a genious and a whistleblower for all Americans. Having him retire will definitely keep many of the hidden issues/plans behind the white house doors. Thanks to him, we have a little transparency that Obama doesnt want exposed.....watch what you wish for.

      March 6, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Beth... dispatches from the bubble.

      March 6, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Beth: Did she once say she was out having multiple s.ex partners? Rush is an idiot and should not be allowed to speak EVER!! All this woman did was stand up for the rights of women and you seem to have a problem with this. You're not a woman in any sense of the word if you don't believe in standing up for their rights. Does you husband beat you in to sub.missiveness? Do you have numerous children b/c you refuse to use birth control to control the population? Are you so misguided that you are too stupid to see that contraceptives have far more use than just to prevent pregnancy? Don't call yourself a woman until you research what it is to be one!

      March 6, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • MoralOrel

      @Truth – "Gender: You cannot claim to be a member of this gender until you have passed the subsequent 'x-y' exam. you must score at least a 19 out o 20 to be registered as a female. Thank you for your cooperation".

      March 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  14. Funny

    yeah CNN is hilarious.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
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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.