CHECK IT OUT: Kristan Hawkins’ free speech op-ed on Fox News

The uproar over Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to leave the Colts-49ers game after some NFL players took a knee during the national anthem again highlights the intense cultural debate over free speech that seems of utmost importance to the media and activists. Yet not all “speech” is treated as equal in coverage and attention.

Over the last few weeks, the free speech rights of students on college campuses have been violated as peaceful chalk messages from students have been destroyed, flyers pulled down and permits for new pro-life groups and speakers slow walked through the approval process to prevent voices from being heard. If you haven’t heard about the college blockade taking place even this week, perhaps it is because the students whose voices are being forcibly silenced favor life over abortion. And while they may not get the attention that millionaire athletes can garner, their points of view are no less valid.

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Pro-Life Victory at Johns Hopkins!

johnshopkinsprolife_lgLast night we received word that Voice for Life (VFL) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has officially been granted recognized group status!

This unanimous decision by the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Judiciary Committee overturns the SGA Senate’s rejection of VFL. When we first broke the story with VFL, they had been denied official status because the SGA had deemed sidewalk counseling “harassment” under JHU rules and because of a link on VFL’s website to an organization that posts graphic images of aborted preborn babies. Internal SGA emails had also revealed a bias among members against pro-lifers, even comparing them to white supremacists and saying they engage in hate speech.

A second update was made when the JHU administration agreed with us and gave an opinion that sidewalk counseling was protected free speech – as the Supreme Court has ruled – and did not violate any university rules or codes.

Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America, said, “We are so proud of our students in Voice for Life for courageously standing up to the pro-abortion forces in their student government and on their campus that sought to silence them for their beliefs. In this case, the private personal character attacks on pro-lifers as racists and misogynists that we know go on all the time were exposed for the world to see. The national outcry these revelations provoked forced the JHU student government reconsider its anti-free speech stance, but this is the kind of discrimination pro-life students face across the country every day. Students for Life will always fight for students who are attacked and have their rights violated as they peacefully spread the positive Culture of Life on their campuses.

“We stand with Andrew, Monica, and other Voice for Life students as they fight to abolish abortion despite the harassment and hateful allegations hurled their way. They are the leaders of this pro-life generation and we look forward to helping VFL continue to change hearts and minds at Johns Hopkins.”

Andrew Guernsey, President of JHU VFL: “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. 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. 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.”

Monica Rex, Vice President of JHU VFL: “Now that the SGA Judiciary Committee has approved us, we are ready to begin the real work of saving lives! 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.”

Media: Contact SFLA Director of External Relations Alexa Coombs at Alexa@studentsforlife.org or 571-295-7352

Johns Hopkins Agrees with Supreme Court, Sidewalk Counseling is Free Speech

As we reported last week, Johns Hopkins University’s Student Government Association (SGA) unfairly denied the pro-life group Voice for Life (VFL) official group status.

The Executive Vice President of the SGA had previously told the school newspaper, “The SGA Executive Board found that the proposed group (Voice For Life) intended actions as a club that clearly violates the JHU Harassment and Code of Conduct policies as enforced by Dean Boswell and Rob Turning. We have asked them to resubmit their group proposal without sidewalk counseling. We look forward to reading their updated proposal.”

As we noted at the time, it is not the job of the SGA but the University Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) to determine if Voice for Life’s sidewalk counseling constitutes harassment under school policy.

Today, the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity responded to VFL’s request for a ruling and came down in support of the pro-life group’s free speech rights, saying:

“My view is that the proposed ‘sidewalk counseling’ activities, as described in your email, would not violate these university policies. 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.” (Read the letter here)

Voice for Life President Andrew Guernsey reacted to OIE’s letter saying, “We 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. The unfounded accusations of harassment and racism from the JHU SGA have been an embarrassment not only to this great institution of Johns Hopkins University, but also are demeaning to the true victims of harassment and racial discrimination. This was all merely a pretext for their desperate attempts to prevent pro-life voices from being heard on campus, but Voice for Life is hopeful that the SGA Judiciary will finally do the right thing, and follow the Office of Institutional Equity’s lead to enforce Johns Hopkins’ institutional commitment to free speech. As our motto states, ‘The Truth will set you Free!'”

Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America (SFLA), said, “We’re glad that the Johns Hopkins administration is acknowledging what SFLA has been saying all along, in agreement with the U.S. Supreme Court, that sidewalk counseling is protected free speech. JHU must continue to protect its students’ rights to free speech and association by ensuring VFL is allowed to be an official student organization. We need to make sure the SGA Judiciary gives VHL a fair hearing and abides by the school’s own policy at the hearing Tuesday night. The SGA must still account for comparing VFL to a white supremacist group as well as its attempts to censor external links on VFL’s website.”

The SGA Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear VFL’s appeal to be recognized as a student group on Tuesday, April 9th at 5pm. VFL has retained the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, whose mission includes defending the sanctity of human Life.  The Thomas More Law Center is assisting VFL before the SGA Judiciary Committee. We will keep you updated as this story develops.