President Joe Biden will not attend the University of Notre Dame’s 2021 commencement this Sunday, breaking a 20-year tradition.
The decision comes after students at the school and its alumni petitioned Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, not to invite Biden, the second Roman Catholic president, over his pro-abortion policies.
While the petition to exclude the Democratic president was signed by 4,300 “members of the Notre Dame community,” the Catholic News Agency reports Biden was ultimately invited but will not attend due to a scheduling conflict.
The president’s decision breaks a recent tradition spanning the three previous administrations in which a president or vice president addressed the school. The tradition started when President George W. Bush first addressed the school in 2001 and was followed by addresses by President Barack Obama in 2009 and Vice President Mike Pence in 2017.
Signers of the petition were “dismayed by the pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda of President Joe Biden” and called on him neither to speak at the graduation ceremony nor to receive an honorary degree from the school.
“He rejects Church teachings on abortion, marriage, sex and gender and is hostile to religious liberty,” it continued. “He embraces the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty public policy program in history. The case against honoring him is immeasurably stronger than it was against honoring President Obama.”
The petition also said the Biden administration is “providing direct federal funding to abortions.”
A spokesperson for the university told the Catholic News Agency that Biden’s absence was not particularly irregular.
“While Notre Dame has had more presidents serve as commencement speakers than any university other than the military academies, we have not always hosted a president in his first year in office – or at all,” the spokesperson said.
It is unclear if Vice President Kamala Harris was invited.