Student Debaters Refuse to Take Stand on Reversing Ban of Partial-Abortion

( [email protected] ) Jan 14, 2004 10:35 AM EST

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Debate team of California Baptist University chose not to attend a debate tournament where the students have to argue in support of reversing a ban on partial-birth abortion.

"We wanted them [the judges] to know firmly that we did not believe in partial-birth abortion," said Mary Pryfogle, 20, captain of the CBU team. "It's not like theater where you role play and distance yourself from your morals. ... We've debated other moral issues that were not as heavy, but Scripture is very clear on this."

Pryfogle was shocked when she found out that other Christian debated on this issue.

"They made us feel like we were not good enough debaters because we didn't do it," she said. "It was as if they had to justify their decisions."

"We are Christians first and debaters second," said team member Wendeth Matyas, 26. "This is a ministry for us. I'm proud that our coach [Mike Marsh] supported our decision on this."

Baptist Press reported that “CBU's two-member senior team and two-member novice team forfeited their matches when they would have had to argue why the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn the ban on partial-birth abortion approved last year by the Senate and House of Representatives and signed by President Bush. Under the procedure, a physician punctures the skull and vacuums out the brain of a partially delivered baby, usually in the second or third term of a pregnancy.”

"We thought, surely, this is not what they are asking us to defend," said Matyas, Pryfogle's teammate and a speech major. "We went back to discuss how we could rearrange the topic to find a way to debate it. But there is no good in killing four- to nine-month-old babies."

Marsh, a CBU graduate and former debater who is a teaching assistant at California State University at San Bernadino, said, "The students came to me and said they couldn't do it.

"It was a pretty extreme topic. I haven't seen this [forfeiting] done before, but I try to instill education rather than the winning aspect. I was supportive of their decision."

CBU team members appreciated their coach's support in refusing to debate. "We are so proud to be a part of this team," said Marina Fanning, 19, a CBU sophomore. "Some other coaches would have said they need to have the win."

However not everyone was supportive of their decision.

Thomas Gerstheimer, a CBU sophomore, said, "Our judge, who was from a Christian college, was shocked. She asked us twice if we were sure we didn't want to debate it.”

He continued, "She wanted us to debate it. We could've tried to find some advantages but it wouldn't have been right. It should be our natural response as Christians. That's why we are there -- to be light."