SGB, Students for Life debate over nature of anti-abortion group

By Erin Block

A group said it was denied SGB funding because of religious discrimination, but the… A group said it was denied SGB funding because of religious discrimination, but the president-elect defended the decision for other reasons.

In a face-off between former presidential candidates, Justin Romeo and Board President-elect Charlie Shull debated a request that Student Government Board denied to a group of which Romeo is a member.

SGB denied Students for Life, a group that advocates for anti-abortion issues, an allocations request of $1,515 for transportation needs to the March for Life in January on Capitol Hill.

Shull said the Board decided that the group was “proselytizing” for its cause, rather than lobbying. Board member Nila Devanath spoke out against the board’s decision.

Romeo, speaking on behalf of Students for Life, said that the conference was the organization’s most important event of the year.

He said that the Students for Life executive board met with the SGB allocations committee and was asked if its organization was associated with people who preach on street corners. The executive board said they were not.

“I thought it rather insulting that the sole reason provided for the denial of those funds was to say that this event was to proselytize,” Romeo said.

He said a peaceful and fundamental part of the January march is lobbying, and “in no way is that proselytizing.”

“In the past two years SGB had funded this event,” Romeo said.

Shull said he did not agree with the purpose of the allocations request to attend the March for Life.

“The fundamental purpose of this group is to promote an opinion, traditionally that of a religious perspective,” he said. Shull said that promoting an opinion appears to be the group’s angle. “Therefore I would disagree with the fundamental existence of the group, and so therefore, it was my opinion that this group is going to proselytize as a lobbying organization.”

Romeo said he didn’t “understand” Shull’s point because other clubs, like the Pitt Catholic Newman Club, are religious organizations. He said that for Shull to disagree with the main point of the clubs is to disagree that students could organize based on their religious foundations.

“We should not be discriminated against as a club just because we have a religious perspective,” Romeo said.

Romeo said that Students for Life has Muslim members as well as nonreligious members in its group.

“My concern is if students want to voice an opinion based on religious perspectives, and [that] they are representing Pitt,” Shull said.