(La Mirada, CA) Earlier this summer an incident at Biola University that took place in May was made public. A pro-life nursing student, Diana Jimenez, was disciplined for displaying graphic photos showing abortion victims after being told that she couldn’t. A YouTube video was created that highlighted Jimenez’ encounter with a security officer at the campus, interchanged with a speech that Biola President Barry Corey gave that made him look hypocritical. Jimenez was disciplined and the director of the Nursing program told her she would not be receiving a letter of reference.
To them as well as to anyone of interest, I want to acknowledge publicly that there were missteps made in our response to Diana. For this we apologize to the public as I have privately to Diana. In the days and weeks following this incident, we have thought about where and how we could have and should have done things differently. In turn, we have taken corrective steps. Diana’s passion for the unborn was not the reason she was asked to remove the photographs. For actions on our part that were perceived to be heavy-handed and retaliatory, I have apologized to her and stand by this apology publicly. I acknowledge and regret our errors, and steps have been taken to correct them. As a result, the leadership of Biola is addressing our policies and procedures to avoid a reoccurrence of this type of situation.
In so many ways, Diana is the kind of student with the deep Christian convictions I hoped to see when I came to Biola six years ago. In her convictions about saving the unborn, she represents what Biola is about—the desire to speak up against injustices that break the heart of God. Like Diana, Biola is and has been passionately pro-life.
We have had this year and will have in years to come pro-life events and speakers on campus. We have a pro-life group led by students. We have in our theological statement approved by the board and updated in the past year a statement relative to the sanctity of life: “The Bible is clear in its teaching on the sanctity of life. Life begins at conception. We abhor the destruction of innocent human life through abortion on demand, infanticide or euthanasia as unbiblical and contrary to God’s will. Life is precious and in God’s hands.” All Biola faculty and trustees affirm this statement. We are one of a handful of American colleges or universities filing suit against the federal government for mandating contraceptive coverage in our health plan to include drugs like the morning-after pill and the week-after pill. Simply, we are allies with the pro-life community on behalf of the unborn.
We will continue moving forward on our time-honored commitment to holding high the value of human life and confronting the tragedy of abortion.
He outlined several steps the University was going to take to reaffirm it’s commitment to life, as well as, develop a clear policy regarding the graphic images like what Jimenez used. There wasn’t such policy at the time.
Three pro-life speakers and trainers, two of whom are Biola alumni, sent an open letter to Biola after Dr. Corey’s public apology.
Biola University has corrected a wrong and re-affirmed its pro-life commitment. The pro-life community should respond with gratitude.
Dear Pro-Life Friends and Colleagues –
In early summer, a video was posted on YouTube showing Biola University security confronting student Diana Jimenez over her display of graphic abortion images. The You Tube footage was intercut with a speech on Christian cultural engagement delivered by Biola President Barry Corey. The result was an edited video which made Biola appear hypocritical regarding their stated pro-life commitment. The video caused a tremendous stir in the pro-life community. Some people rallied to Biola’s side. Others called into question whether Biola was actually pro-life (and some, hysterically, whether Biola was Christian). As heads of pro-life organizations who train and consult, we were very troubled by what we saw. Many people, particularly those who knew that two of us are Biola alumi, wanted to know our reaction. They were troubled by our refusal to publicly comment.
What they did not know was that over the past seven weeks, we had been working with Biola leadership as they acknowledged mistakes and expressed their desire to help craft a better policy. With the release of a letter from President Corey – http://now.biola.edu/news/article/2013/aug/20/open-letter-biolas-commitment-pro-life-cause/ – apologizing to Diana Jimenez publicly and to the pro-life community generally, we are now in a position to publicly comment.
Like most pro-life advocates, upon reviewing the video, we were stunned to see the way in which Ms. Jimenez was treated. We were deeply dismayed by the decision of Susan Elliot, the director of the nursing program, to refuse Ms. Jimenez letters of recommendation from any of the nursing faculty – despite the fact that she was not only a student in good standing, but so much so that her picture was used on the nursing program’s web page (though it was scrubbed right after the incident). Near the end of the video, seen, as of this writing, nearly 17,500 times, an update frame occurs near the end to alert viewers to Elliot’s actions regarding the witholding of letters of recommendation . One of our concerns us is that, even though Elliot’s retributory action was overturned by the administration many weeks ago, there has been to date no additional editing of the video to reflect this change.
Ultimately, the problem at Biola was not about the university’s statement of faith regarding the sanctity of human life. The real problem at Biola was that a fourth-year nursing student could complete that program, yet remain totally unaware of the grisly reality of abortion or the persuasive arguments that support a pro-life perspective. It took exposure to those images, displayed at a student-sponsored pro-life event which drew only a handful of participants, to awaken her to the need to rouse her fellow students to action. And if Diana’s ignorance of abortion was typical in Nursing, what about students in Music, Communication, English, or Biblical Studies?
As a Christian university, Biola understands confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. President Corey has confessed Biola’s wrongdoing in a humble, frank, and commendable way. And his letter demonstrates the fruit of repentance. Specifically, he firmly states that Biola University will make sure that no student graduates without fully understanding the rationale behind the sanctity of human life, which is one of Biola’s theological distinctives. Their commitment will begin this fall, by training student and faculty leaders in the reasoning behind the use of graphic images. In September, The Chimes – Biola’s student newspaper – and other communication venues will publish President Corey’s position. This academic year Biola will hold a pro-life chapel during which graphic abortion photos will be used as such images have historically been used: to turn an abstract idea into an unmistakable reality, and to motivate advocacy and change. By the end of the fall, Biola will be posting an updated policy in support of the ethical and effective use of graphic images on campus. And until this policy is drafted, President Corey has committed the university to find effective and appropriate locations for students to display such images.
But the commitment does not stop there. President Corey is charging the university to make changes in curriculum and measurable outcomes to ensure that Biola meets its stated goals regarding the education and training of students to uphold, in word and deed, the sanctity of human life.
We would like to see Biola, and other like-minded universities, take a further step to integrate an inter-disciplinary minor in Applied Bioethics to further equip and professionalize the next generation of pro-life advocates and ministry partners. Such a move takes time, but we are willing to work with Biola – or any interested Christian university – to create and implement such a minor. In fact, we already have a curriculum outlined.
Because of these extraordinary and unprecedented steps, we believe Biola deserves the whole-hearted support of the pro-life community. Few Christian universities take their Biblical convictions concerning life as seriously as does Biola. It is our fervent hope that these collective actions of confession and repentance will prove to anyone with doubts that Biola is a champion for Life. We ask for prayer and for reconciliation between Biola and the wider pro-life community. Our prayer is that God would empower us with a spirit of grace as we seek to work together toward our true task: to save the lives of unborn children created in the image of the God we serve.
Together with you in Christ,
John Ensor, M.Div., President, PassionLife Ministries
Scott Klusendorf, M.A., President, Life Training Institute
Marc T. Newman, Ph.D., President, Speaker for Life