Students walk out during Pence's speech at University of Notre Dame

When Notre Dame announced that the vice president and former governor of IN would be the 2017 graduation speaker IN March, the student organization WeStaNDFor began brainstorming ways to take a stand.

They believe that the politics Pence, the former IN governor who was raised Catholic, represented contradicted the Catholic social virtues Notre Dame extols.

About 150 people, roughly half students and half others people in the audience, quietly left Notre Dame Stadium as the vice president took the stage, the South Bend Tribune reported. In a statement, they said they meant to protest against Pence primarily over his stance on immigration, same-sex marriage, and his support for President Trump, which they claim doesn't align with their Catholic faith.

The walkout was planned and although he didn't specifically acknowledge it, the vice-president's speech suggested he knew it was coming.

Before this year's ceremony, more than 1,700 Notre Dame alums signed a letter condemning the university's speaker selection.

Before Pence delivered his commencement address, valedictorian Caleb Joshua Pine used his own time at the podium to speak out against the Trump administration's "scapegoating of Muslims" and proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border.

During the speech at the Catholic university, Pence discussed the importance of religious freedom, lauding Donald Trump's recent executive order protecting religious liberties and freedom of speech.

As the VP was introduced as the keynote speaker, some of the graduates stood up and walked out.

Pence sent out a Twitter post after his speech. Sunday's ceremony also saw him receive an honorary degree from Notre Dame.

Pence didn't directly comment on the walkout, but he applauded Notre Dame for its "atmosphere of civility and open debate". Ignoring the protest, Pence thanked the university and the graduates, and went on to encourage the administration to protect free speech.

As NPR's Meg Anderson noted, Pence has said same-sex marriage could cause "societal collapse". "But commencement is not a moment for academic exchange or political dialogue".

But the university, with its strong Catholic core, has also been the scene of anti-abortion protests - such as one in 2009, when Barack Obama was invited to give the address.

See that statement below as well as video of the new graduates walking out of the ceremony.

  • Larry Hoffman