University of Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh is facing calls for his termination after he went public with his pro-life views. Harbaugh is a devout Catholic and said that “I believe in having the courage to let the unborn be born.” The response has been overwhelming and furious, but it is unlikely that Harbaugh (who just signed signed a 5-year, $36.7 million contract) will be canned. It is an interesting comparison to the successful campaign recently to force a NFL coach to withdraw his comments about Jan. 6th. Yet, if critics had their way, both coaches would be fired for holding dissenting views on such issues.
Harbaugh spoke at the Plymouth Right to Life dinner on Sunday and reportedly shared his own religious beliefs in favor of life.
“I love life. I believe in having a loving care and respect for life and death. My faith and my science are what drives these beliefs in me. [Quoting Jeremiah 1:5] ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’
There are many things one may hold to be immoral, but the government appropriately allows because of some greater good or personal or constitutional right.
Ultimately, I don’t believe that is the case with abortion. Yes, there are conflicts between the legitimate rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn child. One resolution might involve incredible hardship for the mother, family and society. Another results in the death of an unborn person…
In God’s plan, each unborn human truly has a future filled with potential, talent, dreams and love,” Harbaugh said. “I have living proof in my family, my children, and the many thousands that I’ve coached that the unborn are amazing gifts from God to make this world a better place. To me, the right choice is to have the courage to let the unborn be born.”
Harbaugh is used to calls for “unnecessary roughness” but nothing likely prepared him for what came next. The reaction was immediate and unhinged. Harbaugh was accused of being “full of deep seething hatred of women.” Despite his explanation of his deep-seated religious view in favor of life, various people accused him of “publicly expressing his distaste for women’s rights.”
Others called for Harbaugh to be fired for holding a pro-life view shared by millions of citizens; F**k Jim Harbaugh, may the University of Michigan 86 him before his contract goes full-term.” The liberal Palmer Report posted (with thousands of “likes”):
“No one who actively attempts to deny women their most basic rights should ever be allowed to hold a position of influence at a public university. That incudes (sic) University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh and his anti-woman fundraising. He’s a public employee. Fire his a**.
It’s one thing to hold this personal view, if you can keep it separate from your actions. But to use your clout as a public employee go out and do fundraisers for groups that actively seek to deny women their most basic of rights, is a whole different ballgame.”
The ease with which many move to censorship is vividly on display in these statements. Some critics make a passing gesture toward free speech and then say that this is no longer merely a “personal view” because Harbaugh is well-known. Under that approach, any public comment could be viewed as “using your clout as a public employee.” Thus, you can (presumably) speak in favor of life if you are an unknown, but not if you are a known figure.
Of course, the same conditional right to free speech would not apply to Harbaugh if he were to offer pro-choice views or Coach Del Rio if he were to support the J6 Committee. Those views can not only be expressed but will receive widespread acclaim for a coach being a leader and mentor to others.
Fortunately, as a public university, Michigan is subject to the full weight of the First Amendment even if it wanted to tackle the contractual challenges to termination. Yet, the vile rhetoric directed at Harbaugh should, even in this age of rage, give some pause. To label all pro-life supporters as anti-women is unfounded and unfair. Millions of women support limiting or barring abortions. They are not self-haters or anti-feminists.
Harbaugh gave a heartfelt and honest speech about his faith and commitment to the pro-life cause. This is part of a debate that will now unfold in 50 states as voters decide where to draw the line on abortion services. It is a debate that should be passionate on both sides, but we should be able to disagree without such personal attacks or calls for terminations. Indeed, a state employee should be able to hold a pro-life view while holding a job at the University of Michigan.