Pro-Life Leaders Applaud Biola University's Apology to Student Activist

(Photo: Biola University)Biola University recently received a million grant toward its Center for Christian Thought, an initiative that begins during the Spring 2012 semester. The campus library is pictured above, January 2012.

Pro-Life activists praised Biola University, a private Christian university in La Mirada, Calif., for publicly apologizing for a May incident where it denied recent nursing graduate Diana Jimenez the ability to display a graphic anti-abortion sign.

"I am very excited at the degree of humility exhibited by the Biola Administration," Marc T. Newman, president of Speaker for Life and Biola alumnus, told The Christian Post in a Thursday interview. "Once they realized they had made a mistake, they didn't try to cover it up – they humbly sought advice from trusted counsellors, and they not only sought it – they took it."

Newman said Biola contacted him, along with John Ensor, president of PassionLife Ministries, and Scott Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute, to advise them in developing a policy for pro-life visual aids. Testifying to the power of the Holy Spirit, the Biola alum said the school's new policy completely satisfied the complaints of their most vocal opponent in the Jimenez case, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.

The center posted a video of the school's campus security chief, John Ojeisekhoba, threatening Jimenez while she displayed the graphic pro-life sign on campus. The video flashed back and forth between the chief's threats and a speech about courage and conviction given by Biola University President Barry H. Corey.

Greg Cunningham, executive director of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and Jimenez's guest at the university, said Dr. Susan Elliott, director of Biola's Nursing Department, "circulated an internal letter prohibiting all nursing faculty members from providing Jimenez with letters of reference." This move hurt her career options, as she would graduate only a week after the incident.

This was allegedly a unilateral decision by Dr. Elliot, but the administration overturned it, Newman explained. He found the nursing department director's actions especially disappointing because, before the incident, Jimenez's photo was used on their fundraising page.

"We apologize to the public as I have privately to Diana," Corey wrote in an open letter on Biola's commitment to the pro-life cause. He laid out five steps the university pledges to take in the coming months, including an op-ed in the student newspaper, The Chimes, instruction with visuals in a pro-life chapel, and a "clear policy supporting the ethical and compassionate use of graphic images in places trafficked by students."

Newman said, given the short time between the incident and the apology, Biola "not only met but exceeded most of our expectations."

In Biola's original statement to The Christian Post in July, Brenda Velasco, assistant director of public relations, pointed to a visiting kindergarten group as a reason for denying Jimenez's display. "The location she chose," Velasco explained, "would have intersected with that visiting group."

"Unduly targeting children for graphic abortion pictures is, of course, wrong," admitted Scott Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute, but he also revealed a double standard. He recalled graphic images of elephants being poached at the Los Angeles zoo, placed at knee-high level specifically for kids to see them. The photos came with an explanation for parents – the zoo recognized the pain it would cause children but said it was "necessary for them to see the reality of what's going on."

"Are bodies stacked in the death camps in Germany inappropriate to view or is it more accurate to say that these pictures convey truth in a way that words never could?" Klusendorf asked. At the Life Training Institute, he aims to equip pro-lifers to make a persuasive case in the marketplace of ideas. "Pictures change how people feel, arguments change how people think," he said. Both are necessary to change behavior.

Newman agreed. "My job is to help people advocate the truth in a winsome way to persuade others to a Biblical view of the sanctity of human life and to act on those beliefs," he said.

Both Klusendorf and Newman applauded Biola, despite adding that the school still needs to prove its dedication to the new policy.

Even the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform praised the apology on its Facebook page. "Praise God for Biola's humble apology and commitment to taking action in the future," their post read.