(WASHINGTON) — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius barely got out two sentences Friday before a protester at the Georgetown University Public Policy Commencement sprung to his feet calling her a “murderer.”
The audience began booing the protester to drown out his cries, making the rest of his outburst inaudible.
Sebelius, however, barely missed a beat. After her initial surprise she continued her talk, saying “having spent my entire life in public service,” drawing laughter from the audience, which was clearly on her side.
After he was escorted out, the same protester could be heard running up the hall outside the auditorium and attempting to reenter. All while screaming what sounded like “Judah,” probably in reference to Genesis 38, where Judah orders a woman to be burned to death, despite the fact she was three months pregnant.
Debate from Sebelius stemmed from her speaking at a Catholic and Jesuit university after the March 14 “statement on religious freedom and HHS mandate” which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) strongly opposed.
In a statement from the university president, John DeGioia, said the invitation is not a “challenge” to the USCCB, as some interpreted it to be.
Clarifying that the invitation came prior to the January 20 announcement by the Obama administration of modifications to healthcare regulations, and that her “presence on our campus should not be viewed as an endorsement of her views” and that the university “disassociates itself from any positions that are in conflict with traditional church teachings.”
The Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative watchdog group, and their President Patrick J. Reilly, however, condemned the choice and urged the president to “withdraw the invitation” and called the move to invite her “scandalous and outrageous.”
They also sent an online petition with more than 25,000 signatures to DeGioia, which according to their blog “is part of CNS’ ongoing efforts to promote a renewal of Catholic identity in Catholic institutions of higher learning.”
The students selected the secretary in the “spirit” of her experience and career in public policy.
“We expect that her remarks will not be a political statement, but will reflect the experiences she has had throughout her life in public service,” a student letter to the president explained.
The faculty of the public policy institute also issued a letter to the president Thursday saying the university “cannot permit outside protests to dictate who will and will not be allowed to address out community” and that “speech should be answered by speech, not by efforts to shut down discussion and free exchange.”
The five or six protesters outside the commencement held signs stating “Abortion is Murder.”
Sebelius drew off her own experiences and offered the new graduates two key pieces of advice.
Her first “hope” was to “always hold on to your commitment to work for the common good. If you let that focus guide you, you will never go off course,” she said.
While her second piece of advice was to not “wait.”
“Go ahead and do it yourself — because if you don’t, it might never happen,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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