The Truth: Biola University is Pro-Life

Biola Pro-Life Chapel

La Verne Tolbert, Ph.D., in Chapel at Biola University

I am responding to the  blogs and videos on the pro-life circuit alleging that Biola University is not pro-life because a nursing student was not allowed to show graphic images of abortion.  The charge is that she tried to speak up on a campus that ignores the abortion issue.  

I want you to know the truth…

In Biola University’s undergraduate chapel, I presented 2 pro-life messages prior to this May, 2013 incident.  The first chapel occurred February, 2013.  During this chapel, to a packed student audience I shared my experience as a former board member of Planned Parenthood in New York City and the education I received about abortion that converted me to pro-life during my 5-year tenure (1975 to 1980).

As I prepared my message, it was my intent to show the video, The Thirsting, which has graphic images of aborted babies and which I’ve used in training pro-life speakers.  The video was to be prefaced with a disclaimer warning students they were about to view graphic content, a note which I included when I submitted my outline to the Biola chapel committee.  NEVER was I told that I could not show this video!

However, as I developed the message, I decided instead to use 3 videos produced by the Radiance Foundation because I felt they were more effective and more appropriate for the students. They were contemporary, shorter, powerful, and educational, and they fit well within the time allotment for my talk and PowerPoint presentation.

After the chapel, I had arranged for counselors from a crisis pregnancy center and from an abortion recovery ministry to talk with and counsel students.  We gave lots of handouts about abortion and STDs including HIV/AIDS.  I also carted a huge box of the Human Life Alliance publication, “She’s a Child Not a ‘Choice'” (20th Anniversary Edition).  Extra copies were left in the student union.  

Several students spoke with me afterwards.  Among them was a black female undergraduate student.  We had coffee together, and today I am one of her mentors.  This student is not the nursing student who is at the center of the controversy.  The nursing student who was so passionate about ending abortion never introduced herself.

Here is the link to my chapel message, “Living Out the Good News for a Pro-Life America.” http://open.biola.edu/authors/laverne-tolbert

The next month, March, 2013, I was again invited to speak to the students during morning chapel.  My message, “I Am From This Place: Healing the Mother Wound,” focused on how God healed the wound in my heart from mother abandonment.  I shared about my life from birth to being in foster care, to a career in publishing, to marriage and family, to church work, to pro-life and adoption ministries.

During this message, I had approximately 15 jumbo photos which included pictures of me at every significant phase of life.  One included other members of the National Black Prolife Coalition (Ryan Bomberger, Dr. Alveda King, Walter Hoye) and I explained our mission to end abortion in the United States.

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I invited the students to come forward to pray with my intercessory prayer team.  These African American women stood at the front of the gym’s “altar” as students lined up to pray with them!  It was an emotional time of healing and restorative ministry.  Afterwards, Biola awarded me the Priscilla Award for excellence in teaching and mentoring in a special lunch where others also received awards in recognition of National Women’s History Month.  

Once again, the nursing student who is reportedly so passionate about abortion never took the initiative to meet me or to speak with me.  As an alumnus and former student advisor for the African American students, and as a former assistant Christian education professor of Talbot School of Theology (the graduate school of Biola), I have a passion to listen to young people.  I am approachable.

When I learned of this controversy just a few days ago and the accusation that Biola is not a pro-life school, you cannot imagine my shock!  Over the years, there have been many pro-life speakers on campus, among them former abortion clinic owner, Carol Everett.

It is unfortunate that those who are blindly accusing Biola Uuniversity of not being pro-life are ignorant of the fact that Biola is one of 5 universities involved in the governmental lawsuit regarding the insurance mandate requiring employers to pay for employee abortions. Yes, Biola is one of the 5 Christian colleges suing the government…and there are hundreds of Christian universities nationwide!

My daughter, La Nej Garrison, is an alumnus of Biola University.  She has a powerful sexual purity message that resonates with students, and she has spoken in sexual purity chapels, both undergraduate and graduate on this campus.  She is popular with students because her messages are laced with a little humor and lots of philosophy which she learned while earning her masters in philosophy of religion and ethics at Talbot.  

Needless to say, with this up close and personal involvement as a graduate student, advisor, professor, mother of a graduate, chapel speaker, and award recipient, and as a black woman who is treated with the utmost respect and regard at this university, I am appalled that a media campaign targeting Biola’s president and discrediting this university is happening to the Christian institution that has so strategically shaped my spiritual development.  It is unfair and absolutely incorrect to accuse the president and university as if one organization, or one student is judge and jury.

With barely half of the story, this incident that was intentionally and deliberately orchestrated has become a distraction to the pro-life cause, popping up on blogs and websites without anyone bothering to check the facts.  True, it creates controversy and a media buzz but for what reason…publicity?  Is there nothing else remaining in the enormous work of pro-life than to plot against a Christian university and wrongly defame its president?

The nursing student had been given several options to present her graphic photos, including the invitation to have a panel discussion about abortion http://now.biola.edu/news/article/2013/jun/05/biola-university-response-recent-youtube-video-stu/. But, although this may have been more educational and instructive to students, she refused.  She only wanted to display her picture during finals week, and the university said it was not a good time. It was explained to her that little children would be on campus for another event.

If students can display whatever they want without clearing their material, imagine what students who might be inclined to promote other causes that are contrary to Christian values might do!  There’s a time and place for everything, and students must adhere to policy and operate decently and in order.

My name and story were in the Chimes campus newspaper and also on the university’s website.  Never did this student contact me.  Unfortunately, it seems that she had been cornered by someone who is convinced that the only way to end abortion is with graphic images displayed at any time whether appropriate or not.  But we all know that if graphic images were the solution that would end abortion, abortion would have ended over 30 years ago!

It is heartbreaking to me that Christians are defaming Christians.  This is clearly the work of the enemy who wants to divide us and distract us from the true work of ending abortion.  Why do we do this to one another?  How does this glorify God?  How does this advance the work of the kingdom?

President Barry Corey is one of the godliest men I have ever met, and I am so saddened at the attempt to slander his reputation and to smear the image of Biola with a cunningly misleading video that deliberately distorts the facts.  Why not attack Planned Parenthood?  Aren’t they celebrating that Christians are biting and devouring one another?  Why not hold up pictures of aborted babies on their grounds or on a secular campus where God’s Word is shunned?  Why attack the children of God?  Are we not brothers and sisters in the Lord?  How does this impact the unsaved world?  Are we winning the lost to Christ and promoting the Gospel of Jesus?  Are we ending abortion?

Does anyone stop to ask why this nursing student was so well-prepared with her video camera?  Is there any doubt that this was a devious plan by someone with an agenda?  If I were the security guard who was being video-taped, I might have taken the camera out of the student’s hands.  But the guard in the video did not do that!  He took the sign and clearly frustrated asked her to leave citing the rules as he should have for any student who violates campus regulations. And, it’s not being noted that this student was allowed to graduate from Biola.

The information that’s being circulated is such a distortion of facts and is shameful in its attack of this Christian university.  I should know the school’s integrity…I enrolled in 1983 and graduated with my Masters and Ph.D., was an employee and taught there until 1998.  I was one of the alumni recently invited to participate in the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Talbot School of Theology building…my Biola roots are deep and meaningful…

And let’s not forget, that my dissertation, Condom Availability Through School-Based Clinics and Teenagers’ Attitudes Regarding Premarital Sexual Activity (1996), which I researched as part of my doctoral work, is an expose of the abortion movement in America.  Completing this research is how I learned of President Nixon’s Commission on Population Growth and the American Future that urged the government to subcontract Planned Parenthood and give them federal grants to establish free-standing, non-medical units (abortion clinics) in black and poor neighborhoods. Biola’s graduate school and its professors encouraged and supported my research!  How can anyone say this university is not against abortion?

My life is what it is today because of the relationships, education, experiences and opportunities with which I’ve been privileged to experience on the campus of Biola University.  I am committed to this institution and am ever grateful for the personal examples of my former professors as well as the quality leadership of the former President, Dr. Clyde Cook (now deceased), and the current President, Dr. Barry Corey, as well as the excellent staff that is so worthy of emulation…and applause.

What is being portrayed on the web is clever media hype clouded with misinformation, but it is not the truth. Using a vulnerable student to promote a hidden agenda is unscrupulous to say the least.

I urge the members of the pro-life community to evaluate the facts.  Please know that I will not be involved with any group or organization that participates in discrediting Biola University, its president, or its staff.

God is not the author of confusion, and everything about this incident is laced with confusion.  To hide the fact that there were 2 pro-life chapels just 2 and 3 months prior to this incident–and I was the speaker both times!–demonstrates that what we are reading and watching is a lie…and in my opinion, it is a lie from the pit of hell.

La Verne Tolbert, Ph.D.