Abortion Politics Trump Social Justice at Catholic School

Andy Birkey

A Minnesota Representative was stripped of an award for social justice work from a local Catholic school because of his voting record on choice.

Minnesota Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Richfield, was stripped of an award from the
Academy of Holy Angels (AHA) last week because of his votes on
abortion, the Catholic school said. The candidate for Minnesota governor was to
be presented with AHA Activities Hall of Fame honor, but when the
school learned of his Thissen’s voting record, they rescinded the award.

“[T]he nominating committee was not aware of Mr. Thissen’s voting
record in the Minnesota Legislature regarding pro-abortion issues,” the
school said in a letter to alumni.

“When I heard about this, I really was disappointed, not so much
because of the award, but because the award was for something that had
nothing to with my position on giving women the choice of what to do
during a pregnancy,” Thissen told the Star Tribune.

Thissen told the school his support for social justice issues like
ensuring health insurance for all children and advocating for the poor,
the disabled and the elderly should count for something.

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“I had imagined that the high school I attended — the institution
that taught me the importance of social justice in Minnesota — would
have valued and been honored by that work,” he said.

But among the Catholic hierarchy, supporting those that have the
least in society cannot mitigate any support a politician shows for the
“non-negotiable five”: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell
research, human cloning and “homosexual” marriage.

So, which votes tarnished Thissen’s otherwise impressive achievements in the eyes of the religious right?

In 2008, he voted in support of a bill to allow state funding for
stem cell research. He voted against a bill to prohibit any government
funds from going to an organization that offers abortion. He voted
against several overrides of Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson
Kelliher when she deemed anti-abortion amendments not germane to
certain bills. In other words, anti-abortion legislators put bills and
amendments forward that had no chance of passing in order to use them against pro-choice legislators.

“As a result of Mr. Thissen’s public position to actively support
pro-abortion issues, AHA has chosen not to include him among this
year’s inductees to the AHA Activities Hall of Fame,” read the school’s
letter. “We have done so, not because we do not appreciate his past
achievements, but because we cannot endorse his legislative actions
relating to abortion.”

While anti-abortion activists rejoiced at the school’s decision, one lone voice praised Thissen. Frank Burton, founder of the Circle of Reason,
thanked Thissen for taking a stand on the issues. Thissen’s “courageous
refusal to enforce Catholic doctrine upon the general public, and whose
recognition that morality is compatible with prochoice policy, led to
his being stripped of his Hall of Fame Alumnus Award by his former high

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