Published March 31, 2013
Boston College is getting support from prominent Catholic universities in its efforts to stop a student group from giving away condoms on campus.
According to the Boston Globe, officials at Catholic colleges and universities – including Notre Dame, Georgetown and Catholic University – say their policies are similar to that of Boston College, which threatened disciplinary action against students distributing condoms on school grounds.
“One of the teachings of our faith is that contraception is morally unacceptable,” Victor Nakas, a spokesman for Catholic University, told the paper. “Since condoms are a form of contraception, we do not permit their distribution on campus.”
A letter sent by Boston College telling on-campus groups they could face disciplinary action for a condom giveaway provoked angry reactions from students, and the American Civil Liberties Union said it might pursue legal action.
“BC is saying that they’re a private university, so we can do what we want,” said Sarah Wunsch, staff lawyer at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “But that’s actually not true.”
According to the Globe, Wunsch cited the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act of 1979, which prohibits interference with civil rights by private as well as public entities. She cited a court case lost by Boston University in the 1980s after the institution attempted to force students to remove an antiapartheid poster from their dorm windows. In that case, the judge ruled that the state Civil Rights Act protected the free speech rights of the students, even though they attended a private school.
Most Catholic universities agree when it comes to distributing contraception on campus, said Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Galligan-Stierle said Catholic educational institutions follow John Paul II’s “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” a document he issued on church principles in 1990. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a US-specific interpretation of John Paul’s document in 2001.
“There are certain ways of living that we, Catholics, believe lead to a healthier and holier life,” Galligan-Stierle said, according to the Globe. “This falls into one of many of those ways.”