Likening religious schools to segregation–a racist system that forced blacks to attend different schools and use different facilities than whites in the American South–President Barack Obama told a town hall meeting for youth in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Monday that there should not be Catholic and Protestant schools because such schools cause division.

“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,” said Obama. “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,” he said. “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.

“And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union,” said Obama. “A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict. Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people. And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.

“Even a century after we achieved our own peace, we were not fully united,” he said. “When I was a boy, many cities still had separate drinking fountains and lunch counters and washrooms for blacks and whites”

Obama is now insisting on enforcing an Obamacare regulation that would force Catholic individuals, business owners and institutions to provide health care plans that cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. The Catholic bishops of the United States have unanimously ddeclared this regulation an “unjust and illegal mandate” that violates the constitutionally guaranteed right to free exercise of religion.

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