Carrying signs with slogans like, "Catholics Against Hate," "Carmel Catholic Alumni for Equality," and "No to Santorum, Yes to Equality," a group of alumni from Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's alma mater plan to protest outside his campaign rally tonight at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights.
The group, Carmel Catholic Alumni Against Rick Santorum, also plans to peacefully distribute leaflets to raise awareness of what they call Santorum's "extremist" position on homosexuality and to lobby for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
"Rick Santorum has really built a career on discriminating against the LGBT community. It's what he's built his name on. It's what he's placed all of his bets on. That's the thing that's really rallying alumni against him," said protest organizer Matt Muchowski, a 2002 Carmel Catholic High School graduate and a freelance writer now living in Chicago. "We've been shocked and embarrassed by it."
Santorum, who spent his senior year at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein and graduated in 1976, believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, said Al Salvi, the honorary co-chair of Santorum's Illinois campaign.
Salvi said he respectfully disagrees with LGBT groups' "aggressive" and "anti-marriage" agenda.
"I'm willing to bet you eight out of 10 people, or maybe even more, agree with Rick Santorum," Salvi said. "He does not believe in the radical gay agenda, which is trying to force things upon our citizens, including gay marriage. What they do in the privacy of their homes is their business. The issue is, should this small minority of people impose their views on the rest of society? When their views include throwing out the traditional understanding of marriage?"
Another purpose of the protest, Muchowksi said, is to send a message to students that it's not OK to pick on people who are different from them or deny them equal rights.
"Our group is trying to send a different message to students -- that there are alumni out there opposed to his pro-bully campaign," Muchowski said.
Muchowski says the Mundelein school doesn't get involved in politics, but he's been amazed how many Carmel alumni of all ages across the U.S. have voiced support for their cause on their Facebook page.
Kelly O'Connor, a 1996 Carmel graduate now living in Carbondale, said they were never "taught hate" in their high school curriculum and called Santorum an extremist who isn't representative of the school.
"True Christians live the love of Jesus Christ. They don't preach hate and discrimination," she said in a statement.
Santorum is scheduled to be at Christian Liberty Academy, 502 W. Euclid Ave., at 7 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 6 p.m.
"They have every right in the world to protest peacefully, and I respect their First Amendment right and their right to be involved in the process," Salvi said. "We're going to be happy to have them there."