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Obama’s alleged attack on Catholic schools was no such thing

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At a town hall meeting earlier this week in Belfast, Northern Ireland, President Obama said this:

Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it. If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.

Ultimately, peace is just not about politics. It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.

The right-wing noise machine, ever eager to fault Obama for anything he says or does, has characterized the president’s remarks as somehow anti-Catholic and even anti-American.

Steve Benen RESPONDS to such piffle:

Generations of religious strife in Northern Ireland is certainly a difficult issue, but to characterize Obama’s emphasis on breaking down barriers of division as “attacking Catholic schools” and “attacking America” is absurd, and for Fox News and pretty much every conservative site on the Internet to try to make this an important religio-political scandal is quite silly.

The context, as Andrew Lawrence explained, is everything. Michael McGough added, “Northern Ireland is not the United States. Even in my childhood, when Catholic kids were encouraged to attend Catholic schools and there was an arguably Protestant ethos in many public schools, Catholics and Protestants weren’t as isolated from (or as distrustful of) one another in this country as they continue to be in Northern Ireland…. Society in Northern Ireland is much more stratified, and the role of religiously defined schools more problematic. You can be perfectly comfortable with the role of Catholic schools in the American context and worry about their contribution to estrangement between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.”

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