NOTRE DAME PROFESSOR SUES STUDENT PAPER
In what Jonathan Turley calls a "rare lawsuit against student journalists."
As some of our readers will doubtless have learned from other sources, Notre Dame professor Tamara Kay has sued the independent student publication The Irish Rover for defamation in articles about her pro-abortion advocacy. In this bulletin, we begin our coverage of this singular event.
Professor Kay’s pro-abortion activities have been described in many articles and need not be recounted in detail here. In sum, she has published pro-abortion op-eds in prominent media, posted pro-abortion notes on her Twitter account, and supported abortion in campus discussions.
The University’s ND News first told the nation’s media of Kay’s pro-abortion advocacy by tweeting links to articles she had co-authored with other Notre Dame faculty, and both The Irish Rover and the Notre Dame Scholastic described her activities to the Notre Dame community.
The wide-ranging Scholastic article also cited student and alumni criticism of ND News for publicizing the Kay articles and described Kay as “glad her and her colleagues’ work has sparked discussion on campus.” More, she believed they had changed the pro-life image of the Notre Dame community through their public advocacy.
I think it’s done exactly what we wanted our op-eds to do, which is to change the perception of Notre Dame as a place where the majority of people accept the Catholic Church’s position on these issues. I believe most of us do not.
Still, Kay has freely acknowledged her views collide with Church teaching, and Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, in response to an article in the Chicago Tribune co-authored by Kay, declared:
I write to state unequivocally that their essay does not reflect the views and values of the University of Notre Dame in its tone, arguments or assertions.
(Kay’s GoFundMe page asserts that this disclaimer by Father Jenkins “violated the university’s academic freedom policies” and “caused an escalation in harassment against Professor Kay.)
At the same time Professor Kay insists, and Father Jenkins agrees, that she has the right to speak and publish her dissenting views.
News of the pro-abortion advocacy of a professor at the country’s most prominent Catholic university triggered significant media coverage, including Notre Dame professor Daniel Philpott’s National Catholic Register article, The Truth About Life: A Response to Notre Dame Professors Kay and Ostermann, John Rigolizz’s Daily Wire article, Notre Dame University President Disavows Professors Who Promoted Abortion In Major Newspaper, Ed Condon’s The Pillar article, The Advent of Jennifer Lawrence, Jesuitical silences, and the spirit of Notre Dame, Micaiah Bilger’s Life News article, University of Notre Dame Disavows Professors Who Wrote Pro-Abortion Article, and Thomas Shaffern’s Crisis Magazine article, Notre Dame: Is It Still Catholic?
In an interview with New York Magazine’s The Cut, Kay described the verbal abuse and harassment she had suffered as a result of this publicity and criticized the university for its failure to protect her.
At a recent meeting to discuss her experience, Kay says, the university provost implied that she should expect people to be angry at her because of her abortion research and said there was not much the school could do about it.
But a university spokesperson said that Kay’s description of her meetings with the university were “categorically false” and that “Professor Kay’s safety concerns were addressed point by point.”
An April 5 article in the Notre Dame Observer reported:
Kay says the aftermath has pushed her to weigh legal action against the University and the Irish Rover. In December, she hired a lawyer.
On May 22, Kay sued The Rover.
The litigation is still in its initial stages, but the attorneys for the Rover recently filed a motion aimed at securing a quick dismissal of the lawsuit. A hearing is scheduled for September 27.
In brief, here’s what’s happened so far:
On May 22, attorneys for Professor Kay filed a complaint in Indiana state court against the Rover alleging defamation and seeking both actual and punitive damages because
the Defendant has, and continues to intentionally act, with malice, wanton and willful misconduct and a reckless disregard for the truth all with the intent to damage and negatively impact the Plaintiff
The motion is supported by a memorandum and accompanying materials, including a transcript of the panel discussion the Rover is alleged to have falsified.
Space does not allow us to recount fully and fairly the facts relating to the charges, but we direct the readers’ attention to paragraphs 8-10 of the complaint for Kay’s allegations and pages 27-34 of defendant’s memorandum for The Rover’s rebuttal.
When the plaintiff files a response, we will bring it to you.
As of the date of this bulletin, supporters have raised $13,728 through GoFundMe to “offset the legal costs Professor Kay is incurring.” The Irish Rover seeks donations for its litigation costs and also subscriptions to show support. The Rover is a qualified tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions are tax-deductible.
Much of the vituperation described by Professor Kay is lamentable. It is characteristic of the abuse heaped upon advocates on both sides of contentious issues and symptomatic of the breakdown in civility that has so coarsened public discourse.
At the same time, free speech and freedom of the press are implicated here, and courts, led by The Supreme Court, have recognized the danger that fear of defamation lawsuits will lead to “self-censorship” by news publications.
This is inarguably true of student publications, which, as the Washington Post recently observed, often “have a profound impact on their universities.” At Notre Dame, as we have repeatedly noted, the Irish Rover has been a unique and invaluable source for information, both heartening and disheartening, about the University’s Catholic identity.
Still, defamation, if proven under the strict standards applicable to First Amendment cases, is not protected speech, and we will do our best to report the facts fully and fairly as this litigation proceeds.
We await Kay’s response to the Rover’s motion to dismiss. We are not opening this bulletin for comments because of the sensitivity of the subject at this point.
Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. (1 Cor 3:18-19)
O God our Father, Eternal Wisdom and Love, You have created us in Your own image and likeness, and called us to live in humble obedience to You and according to the order which You have established to govern the universe. You sent Your Son, Wisdom Incarnate, to save us from sin and to reconcile us to You and to one another. He established the Church to be a saving witness of Wisdom and Love, Goodness and Truth to a rebellious world. We implore You to dispel the darkness that surrounds us. May all who have rejected the truths of creation, seeking to replace Your design for the human race with one of their own, be awakened to the destructive folly which passes for wisdom in this age. Enlighten us all by the Truth which sets us free and grant that we may courageously embrace the scorn and contempt of the wise of the world so that we may joyfully share in the Wisdom of God. Through the intercession of Notre Dame, our Mother, we make our prayer in the Name of Jesus, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.
The above prayer is by Sycamore Trustee Father John Raphael (’89). To join us in regular prayer projects such as our Novena for Catholic Education and our Meditation on the 12-Days of Christmas, please join our Apostolate.
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