Ben Johnson

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Johns Hopskins University approves pro-life group after likening it to ‘hate group’

Ben Johnson
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BALTIMORE, April 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of the nation's premier private universities has agreed to recognize a pro-life student organization – but only after the palable threat of legal action.

Johns Hopkins University had denied the petition of Voice for Life on March 12 and 26, but the university's Student Government Association (SGA) Judiciary Committee granted approval last night.

After the initial refusals, JHU Voice for Life obtained the services of the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), based in Ann Arbor-Michigan and housed inside Domino's Farms. 

On April 4, Richard Thompson, TMLC president and chief counsel, sent a five-page letter appraising “top Johns Hopkins University officials and the SGA Judiciary Committee” of the laws that govern student recognition.

That letter was enough to change minds.

“Today is a victory not only for pro-life students here at Johns Hopkins, but for pro-life students around the country,” said Andrew Guernsey, VFL’s president. “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.”

He specifically thanked Students for Life, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the TMLC for helping the group win university approval.

Guernsey and Chris Fernandez, VFL’s treasurer, presented VFL’s case to the SGA Judiciary Committee Tuesday night.

SGA had denied the petition in part because VFL's website links to the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, famous for its depictions of aborted babies, as one of approximately 100 links.

SGA officials also said the group's history of writing pro-life messages on sidewalks in chalk “clearly violates the JHU Harassment and Code of Conduct policies.”

One student senator stated, “We have the right to protect our students from things that are uncomfortable.”

But the university admitted VFL's sidewalk counseling was within its policies.

Vice Provost Caroline Laguerre-Brown of the University'S Office of Institutional Equity wrote to Gurney last Wednesday, “such conduct is fully in accord with the university's robust commitment to the values of free expression and open debate that is articulated in these policies.”

The anti-VFL frenzy culminated when a “top SGA executive member” sent a message to the group's private e-mail list likening the pro-life group to an alleged “hate group,” the White Student Union at Towson University. Towson, also located in the Baltimore area, does not officially recognize the White Student Union. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center lists the organization as a “hate group.”

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The SPLC also lists many pro-life organizations, including the Family Research Council and the Traditional Values Coalition, as “hate groups.”

The comparison brought massive backlash and national media attention – as well as the letter from Thomas More.

“Now that the SGA Judiciary Committee has approved us, we are ready to begin the real work of saving lives!” said the student group's vice president, Monica Rex. “We look forward to bringing our pro-life message to future leaders in the medical industry here at Hopkins.”

Thompson praised the “great example of courageous students facing tremendous opposition, sticking to their deeply held pro-life principles and advancing those principles based on their right to free speech.”

Christians, conservatives, and middle-of-the-road teens who do not endorse the social revolution often find themselves at odds with academia, facing everything from speech codes to harassment or hate speech allegations. The students at JHU want others to know they do not have to acquiesce to academic bullying.

Guernsey said, “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.”

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