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Cardinal Objects to Award for Breyer

Associated Press
Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fordham University's plan to give an award to Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer has drawn criticism from alumni and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in New York over Breyer's support for abortion rights.

Cardinal Edward M. Egan has spoken to leaders of the Catholic university in New York City to ensure that "a mistake of this sort will not happen again," said New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

More than 1,100 Fordham alumni and others have signed a petition calling for the award to be revoked, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative Catholic group based in Manassas that is leading the protest.

Breyer is scheduled to accept the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize tomorrow at a dinner in New York. He will be the seventh justice to receive the award from Fordham's law school. Five of the six previous recipients from the Supreme Court voted in support of abortion rights, and their awards drew no apparent protest.

But the Cardinal Newman Society has been actively opposing Catholic colleges' efforts to honor people who do not share the church's antiabortion views. It also has highlighted campus appearances by Catholic academics who back Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who favors abortion rights.

The group recently objected to Santa Clara University's decision to honor former Clinton administration official and congressman Leon Panetta. Panetta is a graduate of the school and a member of its board of trustees.

Patrick J. Reilly, the society's president, has called Panetta "a leading advocate of the culture of death."

The argument against Breyer, who is not Catholic, is that he wrote the majority opinion in a 2000 case that struck down a Nebraska law banning a procedure that abortion opponents call "partial-birth" abortion. He also dissented in a 2007 case that upheld a federal law banning the same procedure.

Fordham and Breyer did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Egan has previously criticized Catholic elected officials and candidates who support abortion rights. Zwilling said this is the first instance he is aware of in which Egan has spoken out against giving an award to someone over the issue of abortion.

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