Baltimore, Maryland –– A pro-life student group that had been denied recognition at a popular university because of its pro-life views and activities has won a victory on campus.
As previously reported, the group Voice for Life was recently denied recognition by the Student Government Association (SGA) of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The association voted 10 to 8 last month in rejection of the group, and the SGA Senate followed a couple of weeks later.
In discussing the reasons for denial, members of the association pointed Voice for Life to an article about a white supremacist group at another university.
“And this is why we don’t approve groups like Voice for Life,” the student wrote in a private email chain, which has been obtained by reporters.
Another association member explained that she did not like the group’s pro-life displays on campus because she “felt personally violated, targeted and attacked at a place where we previously felt safe and free to live our lives.”
“[W]e have the right to protect our students from things that are uncomfortable,” added a SGA senator. “Why should people have to defend their beliefs on their way to class?”
Others stated that the group’s sidewalk counseling outreach at a nearby abortion facility amounted to “harassment,” and therefore, violated the school’s Code of Conduct.
However, when the matter when before the Johns Hopkins Judiciary Committee this week, it overturned the decision of the SGA and the SEGA Senate.
“We, the Judiciary Committee of the Student Government Association (SGA), unanimously hold to overturn the decision of the SGA Senate to deny official group status to Voice For Life (VFL). Effective immediately, VFL will be granted newly recognized group status,” a letter released on Tuesday outlined.
The Office of Institutional Equity also responded to concerns about whether the group’s pro-life sidewalk counseling constituted a violation of the school’s harassment policy, finding that there was no issue with the activity.
“My view is that the proposed ‘sidewalk counseling’ activities, as described in your email, would not violate these university policies,” stated vice provost Caroline Laguerre-Brown. “A student group’s distribution of literature and advocacy of its viewpoint, in the manner set out in your email, would not constitute harassment within the meaning of these policies. In fact, 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.”
Andrew Guernsey, president of Voice for Life, said that he was pleased with the outcome from the university this week.
“We commend the SGA Judiciary for honoring Johns Hopkins’ institutional commitment to free speech by overturning Voice for Life’s rejection by the SGA Senate,” he said. “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 at their own college campuses.”
“We [also] applaud the JHU Office of Institutional Equity for making it clear that Voice for Life’s proposed activities are protected free speech under the university Anti-Harassment Policy and Student Conduct Code,” Guernsey stated. “As our motto states, ‘The Truth will set you Free!’”