When some students at Johns Hopkins University re-organized a group to share the truth about abortion, they thought they were fighting for the right of the preborn. Little did they know they’d be fighting for their own.
Voice for Life had existed as an officially recognized student organization for fifteen years – between 1995 and 2010 – at JHU. Several current students decided to revive the group when they saw an opportunity to educate their classmates about the reality and ramifications of abortion. They filled out the paperwork, went through the proper channels, and their group was recommended for approval by the Student Government Association’s Appointments and Evaluations Committee. Yet, when the Student Senate met last month, they chose to ignore the recommendation and denied Voice for Life’s application to become an official student club.
The reason? JHU’s Student Senate offered two.
First, the Senate surmised that the group’s intentions to peacefully engage in sidewalk counseling off campus at a Baltimore abortion facility “clearly violates the JHU Harassment and Code of Conduct policies.” Second, the Senate took note of the Voice for Life website including a link to the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which they deemed offensive.
The denial of Voice for Life was in effect a denial of truth and a denial of the university’s mission in searching out truth. Voice for Life President Andrew Guernsey remarked: “It is inconsistent with the JHU’s motto ‘The truth will set you free’ for the SGA to try to hide its students – many future doctors and nurses – from the truth about abortion and how it hurts women, families and, most of all, innocent preborn babies. In fact, at the abortion facility a block from Hopkins campus, a woman died this month and the Maryland government had to step in. If someone was there to sidewalk counsel on that day, that woman and her baby might still be alive today.”
Guernsey and other student leaders in Voice for Life refused to give up. They figured if Voice for Life is to be a voice for life, they could not forego truth.
Realizing a constitutional right was at stake, Voice for Life contacted university officials, who agreed that sidewalk counseling is protected speech under the First Amendment and that nothing Voice for Life did or intended to do violated the students’ Code of Conduct.
Subsequently, the Student Government Association’s Judiciary heard the case, and in a unanimous decision, overturned the Student Senate’s ruling, granting Voice for Life official recognition as a Johns Hopkins University student organization.
This story of steadfastness contains a good lesson for us all. When we share truth, we should expect pushback. As Scripture teaches, people love darkness because it hides their evil deeds (Jn 3:19.) But we can’t let detractors deter us. We have an inalienable right to convey truth, as acknowledged in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And like Voice for Life, we must fight for this right.
The truth cannot be silenced. As JHU’s motto reminds us, the truth will set you free.
Posted by Nate Kellum