By Dave Andrusko
For now it’s a one-thumb up verdict. Late on Tuesday, The Student Government Association’s Judiciary Committee at Johns Hopkins University unanimously reversed an earlier decision and as a result the pro-life group “Voice for Life” becomes an immediately recognized student club.
However “This ruling is not a judgment of the group’s eligibility for funding, or a comment on the tradition that advocacy and awareness groups do not receive annual budgets from the university,” the five-member Judiciary committee said in a statement. In other words being a sanctioned club does not guarantee that Voice for Life will receive university funding.
But that’s a battle for another day and quite a ways from when VFL was likened to white supremacist groups! The decision “means that the group will now have the ability to reserve meeting rooms, host speakers, and sponsor campus programs and activities—abilities it was denied under the student senate’s previous decision,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
Freshman Andrew Guernsey, VFL president, issued the following statement:
“We commend the SGA [Student Government Association] Judiciary for honoring Johns Hopkins’ institutional commitment to free speech by overturning Voice for Life’s rejection by the SGA Senate. Today is a victory not only for pro-life students here at Johns Hopkins, but for pro-life students around the country. We hope that our story of rising above discriminatory opposition can inspire pro-life students around the country to courageously take a stand for life and speak truth to power at their own college campuses.”
“On behalf of JHU Voice for Life, I wish to thank all our supporters in the Hopkins-Baltimore community and around the country. I especially want to express my gratitude to Students for Life, FIRE, and the Thomas More Law Center for their support in helping us win approval from the SGA. It is important that pro-life students like us who face unjust discrimination on their college campuses know that they are not alone, and that there are powerful resources to help them win the battle for free speech in order to win the war of defending the dignity of every human life.”
The blatant double standard brought the university unwelcomed attention.
On March 12, the Student Government Association denied VFL’s application “on the grounds that VFL’s intention to peacefully engage in sidewalk counseling off campus at a Baltimore abortion facility violates the University’s anti-Harassment and Code of Conduct policies,” The Thomas More Society explained. The other reason cited was that Voice for Life included a link to the website of a pro-life organization which features images of aborted preborn babies, considered by members of the SGA member considered to be “offensive.”
Twelve days later the Student Government Association Senate affirmed the decision and Voice for Life filed an appeal with the student Judiciary Committee.
The Baltimore Sun reported today that “Voice for Life intends to hand out literature on campus in an attempt to influence the future doctors and nurses being trained at Hopkins, as well as deter female students from having abortions.” Yvonne Wenger added, “The group members will also interact with individuals outside nearby clinics. Guernsey said the interactions will be non-confrontational.”
Another freshman, Monica Rex, who will serve as vice president of Voice for Life, also issued a statement.
“We are ready to begin the real work of saving lives,” she wrote. “While the road was difficult, we have learned just how much this fight for life means to us, and how important it is that students at Johns Hopkins have the opportunity to hear our pro-life message. Johns Hopkins has always stood for the very best in higher education, and we look forward to bringing our pro-life message to future leaders in the medical industry here at Hopkins.”
Interestingly enough, on the Sun’s webpage, they asked
“Should the Johns Hopkins Student Government Association recognize a student anti-abortion group that engages in sidewalk counseling?”
As of early this afternoon, 359 had replied “yes” to only 222 who replied “no.”
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