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 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be presented with AHA Activities Hall of Fame honor, but when the school learned of his Thissen’s voting record, they rescinded the award.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.
“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 school.”