January 27, 2010 ( – A petition to “Free the ND88,”which is being co-sponsored by Human Life International, the Thomas More Society, and (LSN), has received over 6,000 signatures to date, and is still going strong. (Click here to sign the petition; Click here for the petition's Facebook page)

The petition is addressed to the president of the University of Notre Dame, Fr. John Jenkins, and asks him to request that the charges be dropped against the 88 pro-life activists who were arrested on Notre Dame’s campus last May, while protesting Obama’s appearance at the university.

The 88 pro-lifers are still facing trial on charges of trespassing, and could receive a sentence of up to a year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine if found guilty.

The Thomas More Society (TMS), which is representing the ND88, recently reported on its website that, despite numerous pleas from concerned pro-lifers, “Notre Dame so far has ignored all requests that the charges be dropped, claiming through its publicity officers that this somehow is beyond its power.” However, TMS called this a “disingenuous response,” given that “the cases could not continue but for Notre Dame’s ongoing involvement and support.”

Fr. Jenkins last week made good on his promise to attend this year’s March for Life – one of several pro-life gestures undertaken by Notre Dame in an effort to repair its tarnished pro-life image following the Obama controversy.  At one point during the march, Fr. Jenkins was confronted with a massive banner reading, “Fr. Jenkins: Free the ND88.”

At the same time, several pro-lifers have said that they personally spoke with Fr. Jenkins about the situation at the march.  One of these was Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League.

Scheidler said that at the march he went up to Jenkins and “told him I was speaking on behalf of many friends and fellow Domers, and that he should pardon forthwith the Notre Dame 88.” Scheidler says that Jenkins “was polite but absolutely noncommittal, saying something like, ‘Well, you’ve told me.’”

Jenkins told The Observer, Notre Dame’s independent newspaper, that he had expected to see some signs protesting his position on the ND88 at the march, but would only say, “I felt it was important not to let those banners take away from the central goals of the day.”

He added cryptically, “And I refuse to let them distract from advancing the pro-life cause.”

John-Henry Westen, editor of LSN, said, “It is clear that Fr. Jenkins believes that he can get away with portraying himself as being dedicated to the pro-life cause at the same time as persecuting his purported ideological compeers – the ND88 – who were arrested on his campus for doing nothing more than peaceably defending the unborn.”

“It is important for pro-lifers to let Fr. Jenkins know, in great numbers, that there is a fundamental disconnect between his actions and his words that is undermining his efforts – however legitimate or sincere they might be – to restore Notre Dame’s pro-life image.”

Westen encouraged pro-lifers to sign the ND88 petition, and to spread it around to as many of their pro-life family and friends as possible. “It seems that Fr. Jenkins’ mind is made up,” said Westen. “Well, it is up to us to convince him to change his mind. And the only way we can do that is if we work together to let him know that his position is unacceptable.”

To sign the petition, click here: