Groups call on Georgetown to withdraw Sebelius invitation

Two religious groups are calling on Georgetown University to rescind an invitation for Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak at upcoming graduation ceremonies -- calling her the “architect” of the Obama administration’s effort to force religious-affiliated employers to offer insurance-covered contraception.

The Cardinal Newman Society and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty are asking school President John J. DeGioia to withdraw an invitation for Sebelius to speak May 18 on the Washington campus and are attempting to garner support with online petitions.

“Catholics are fed up with this,” group President Patrick Reilly said Wednesday morning of Fox News. “There’s absolutely no reason that a Catholic institution should have the architect of this policy that would violate this church’s religious freedom.”

In a separate petition, the conservative Becket Fund said Georgetown should not associate itself with "this attack on religious liberty."

The administration announced early this year that religious-affiliated employers including schools and hospitals would have to offer contraceptive coverage -- Obama later backed off the plan amid public outcry, allowing those employers to refuse to provide that coverage directly while putting the responsibility on insurers to make it available.

Georgetown has issued a statement in response to the group’s criticism, saying Sebelius is among a wide-variety of “high-profile” speakers and that she was chosen by students in the school’s Public Policy Institute to talk at their diploma ceremony.

Sebelius will deliver “a message of congratulations as (students) begins their careers in public policy,” according to the statement.

Reilly also took issue with Georgetown -- the country’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university -- for not speaking out when law student Sandra Fluke testified on Capitol Hill in February in support of contraceptive coverage mandates in Obama's health care policy.

“The university … has done nothing to criticize her position,” Reilly said. “We’re very disappointed with Georgetown over the past two decades. It has not been very strong in its Catholic identity.”

The group was created 19 years ago to help renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education, according to its web site.

The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet responded to a request for comment.