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Following a controversy earlier this summer concerning the use of graphic abortion photos (“Blood on the Streets,” July 27), Biola University president Barry Corey wrote an open letter Aug. 20 apologizing for the way the school treated nursing student Diana Jimenez and outlining steps to further the pro-life cause at Biola.
Last May, school officials told Jimenez to take down graphic abortion photos because they said it was inappropriate in such an open place. When she came back with a graphic poster a week later, school security forced her to leave and the dean of nursing banned faculty from writing Jimenez letters of recommendation.
The school’s response, caught on film and posted on YouTube, caused an uproar in the pro-life community, with groups siding with either Jimenez or Biola. While the Center for Bio-ethical Reform (CBR) demanded Biola change its stance or else face a picketing campaign in the fall, Corey has mostly stayed silent until the recent letter.
In it Corey first apologizes for actions that “were perceived to be heavy-handed and retaliatory” toward Jimenez, who he said “represents what Biola is about—the desire to speak up against injustices that break the heart of God.” He said that in the days following the incident, school officials have thought about what the school should have done differently, and he listed six steps to bring the school more in line with its pro-life principles.
Jimenez ‘represents what Biola is about—the desire to speak up against injustices that break the heart of God.’
He plans to discuss the reasoning behind not showing graphic images in the school newspaper, chapel services, and other venues. Echoing CBR’s Gregg Cunningham, Corey wrote that while graphic images can be disturbing, they have been useful in producing social change in the past. In that vein, presenters at Biola’s pro-life chapel will use images “compassionately, ethically, and effectively.” By the end of the fall quarter, he and a team of advisers promise to create a clear policy regarding the use of graphic images on campus.
Corey also said he will ensure the school’s curriculum includes sanctity of life issues. “We desire that each student graduating from Biola understands and can articulate the biblical message of the sanctity of human life, so that students demonstrate these values in their own communities,” Corey wrote.
Many pro-life groups have accepted the school’s apologies and reconciled with the school. John Ensor of Passion Life Ministries, Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute, and Marc Newman of Speaker for Life wrote in a press release that while they were initially shocked by Biola’s actions, the school “acknowledged mistakes and expressed their desire to help craft a better policy.” The men have been working with Biola for the past seven weeks to create a comprehensive pro-life policy.
“Because of these extraordinary and unprecedented steps, we believe Biola deserves the whole-hearted support of the pro-life community,” the statement said.
They also hope that Biola and other Christian colleges would create an inter-disciplinary minor in Applied Bioethics to train those going into pro-life work after college.
But Cunningham is not completely convinced. While CBR wrote on its Facebook page, “Praise God for Biola’s humble apology and commitment to taking action in the future,” Cunningham said in a recent email Corey’s promises don’t go far enough to ensure students can show abortion photos in the school’s common areas. He also questioned why it took Corey three months to apologize.
Cunningham claims the school is making “superficial concessions to defuse public criticism” without granting their students rights, and is unsure whether the dispute can be resolved short of litigation.
Still, pro-life advocate Jill Stanek, who initially wrote a scathing article against the school, said, “Dr. Corey’s letter brought tears to my eyes. It is a beautiful Christian example of how to respond when error is recognized and forgiveness and repentance are sought.”