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Post-Election Message to the AMU Community from President Jim Towey

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dear members of the Ave Maria University community: 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?  The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?”

These words from Psalm 27 which the Church Universal proclaims in the responsorial psalm in today’s holy Mass are a reminder that God alone is sovereign over our affairs.  At Ave Maria University we place our trust in God, not government.  Yes, we are proudly American and we will continue to engage in the public square because the Lord invites us to bring our faith and values to bear on the issues of the day.  But our first allegiance, our first duty, is to the Lord, for He is our life’s refuge.

I want to thank our students who voted in yesterday’s election.  For many students this was their first time at the polls, and by all accounts, our students turned out in droves.  We sent shuttle after shuttle to Immokalee, and I was edified to see so many students exercising their right to vote.  

I know many of them awoke this morning with a stinging disappointment over the outcome of the presidential election.  While it is natural to be disappointed when your candidate loses, it is my prayer that your disappointment does not lead to disillusionment.  America – and the Church – need you to be fully engaged in the public square, even when you don’t prevail at the ballot box or in the cauldron of public policy making.  So don’t be discouraged.  Our country needs your continued enthusiasm and involvement.

All elections have consequences and the re-election of President Obama means that our Federal lawsuit in defense of our University’s religious freedom will proceed.  As the current department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations now stand, our employer-provided health plan is in jeopardy, beginning in 2014.  We have a year to prepare, and much can happen in this year.  I know how important health insurance is to our faculty and staff and we will do everything we can do in good conscience to continue to support your health care needs. 

Today I am appointing an ad hoc committee from among the University’s faculty and staff to make contingency plans in the event HHS does not follow through on President Obama’s pledge in February to amend the regulations in a manner that protects the right of conscience of faith-based institutions like ours. The members of the Committee on Health Insurance are Ken Ferguson, Vice President for Finance and Administration, Chairman; Jennifer Nodes, Director of Library Services; Dr. Michael Pakaluk, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy; Bill Kirk, Vice President for Student Affairs and General Counsel, and Anne Hart, Director of Financial Aid.  They will meet in the near future and Vice President Ferguson will report to you on their deliberations when appropriate.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will continue its advocacy on our behalf.  Next week I will be in Baltimore where the Bishops will gather for their annual general assembly and I am scheduled to visit with a number of them who will be in attendance.  I also will be participating in meetings of the Cardinal Newman Society and conferring with my colleagues from other universities as we strategize in response to the current dilemma.  

The University also will work with the lawyers of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and press ahead with our lawsuit.  Now that the President has been re-elected, it is my sense that a judge will be assigned to our case and the pace of the proceedings will accelerate.  I remain confident in the merits of our lawsuit and believe fervently that the HHS contraception mandate is unconstitutional and also a violation of Federal law.  The University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America, and dozens of other institutions also are in court and I expect that these lawsuits will gather more attention in the months ahead.

My friends, the electoral wave that unexpectedly swept the country last evening reminds each one of us why Ave Maria University exists and why the need for an institution with our values and mission has never been greater.  And I am not simply referring to the national election.  A large majority of Floridians rejected constitutional amendments that would have protected religious liberty and banned the public funding of abortion.  Several states embraced so-called “same sex marriage” in ballot measures, bringing to ten the number of states where such unions are now legal.  One state, Massachusetts, has a dead heat on their initiative to legalize assisted-suicide, which would bring to four the number of states where this dangerous practice is permitted. 

It might be easy to become discouraged by these troubling trends.  However, Psalm 27 ends with the beautiful words, “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.”  

What all of us must do, in this year designated by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as a year of faith, is deepen our dependence upon Divine Providence and be courageous like our Patroness.  At the end of this month the Church will begin a new liturgical year, and soon thereafter we will be focusing our gaze on her, the Virgin with child who will give birth to a son, “and they shall call him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’”  (Matthew 1:23)

Indeed God is with us.  As discouraging as last night’s results were for so many of us, there is nothing to fear.  God is with us at Ave Maria University. He is our light and our salvation.  

Kind regards, 

Jim Towey