AUCKLAND, N.Z. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A pro-life student group has been voted out of the university student association, sparking a free speech debate across the country.
After an anonymous and "vaguely worded" question was submitted to the Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA) concerning the group ProLife Auckland, a referendum was held asking whether the pro-life group should continue to be affiliated with AUSA. Without being told of any wrongdoing or being able to see the question pertaining to their actions, ProLife Auckland had to defend itself before a week-long student vote that would decide its status on campus.
Church Militant spoke with a source at ProLife Auckland, who explained, "The referendum came about after we had a stall outside the University library. We were campaigning against euthanasia."
"Someone saw us," the source said, and "they were aggravated enough to submit a referendum question to our student union (AUSA)."
The online vote took place August 28, with about 1,600 votes to ban the club, and 1,000 to keep it in. The referendum also asked whether clubs with "similar ideology" should also be cut off from the students' association. It was the first successful ouster of the pro-life group, which has been threatened with banishment several times since its founding in 2010.
Jenna Middleton, co-president of ProLife Auckland, told Church Militant Friday, "The main reason for this disaffiliation remains unclear still as the individual who submitted it never provided an explanation or defended their position at the student forum."
ProLife Auckland was initially told the result of the ban meant higher costs and limited access to university resources.
"Last week AUSA told us that there would be physical and economic penalties placed upon the group if it was disaffiliated," said the source at ProLife Auckland. "However, earlier this week they released a statement which stated that we would not lose any privileges that any other club on campus has."
On AUSA's Facebook page, the student association apologizes "for the confusion and re-iterates that disaffiliated groups that still continue to be recognized student organizations at the University of Auckland will not be charged more than affiliated clubs."
Church Militant obtained a copy of AUSA's statement after the referendum. It confirms, "The proposal was put forward by a single student."
It continues, "Disaffiliation represents a symbolic decision from AUSA members that they do not want a formal relationship between their student organization and a particular group. As a private society owned by its membership, our position has been that students are entitled to do this and that it has not deprived the pro-life club of any of its rights."
ProLife Auckland acknowledges that AUSA claims the disaffiliation is "symbolic," but explained, "We are opposing this decision not so much for what we have lost, but rather for the principle."
"Should unpopular minorities be shoved into the corner?" he asked. "They have stated that they will no longer allow minority opinions to be tolerated alongside majority viewpoints."
AUSA acknowledged that it's "currently seeking legal advice" on whether the disaffiliation with ProLife Auckland can be "legally implemented."
Church Militant contacted Auckland University and a spokesperson said, "This club has not been banned." The decision to disaffiliate ProLife Auckland was "made by students via a referendum held by the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA). AUSA is an independent student body which has a process by which members decide which clubs will be affiliated with the association."
Prolife Auckland is part of ProLife New Zealand, a student-based, pro-life organization with groups in several universities throughout the country. Its website states, "We are a movement of young people committed to building a Culture of Life in New Zealand."
In a video posted to Facebook, co-presidents of the Auckland group Jelana Middleton and Francesca explained their purpose for being on campus. Their purpose is to help and support women in crisis pregnancies, and women who have had an abortion. They pair the women with organizations that can help the women get the support they need, never judging or shaming the women. Francesca says, "We’re here because we care."