The 18-year old pregnant student banned by a conservative Christian school from taking part in its graduation ceremony for having pre-marital sex has written a lengthy defence of her position in the Washington Post.
Heritage Academy in Maryland drew a storm of protest including from pro-life groups when it refused to allow Madeleine Runkles, to walk in the graduation procession.
Now, Runkles has defended herself in the newspaper, saying: 'I'm only 18 years old, and I'm about to have a baby boy in the fall as a result of my deliberate failure to adhere to a pledge of chastity I signed at my school...My Christian faith is...extremely important to me, so I involved myself at my church working in the nursery, helping out with Vacation Bible School and helping my mom with meals for church bus drivers on Sunday mornings.'
Runkles outlined how she considered having an abortion but realised she 'couldn't go through' with it because of her faith. 'I am a born-again Christian, one who made a mistake with a very visible consequence,' she wrote. 'Even though I grew up knowing abortion was wrong, I also knew that it would make things easier for me — no one would know what I had done, and I could get on with my life. I had seen women being forgiven who admitted to having abortions, while women who kept their babies seemed to be harder to forgive. But the more I thought about abortion, the more I knew I couldn't go through with it. In my view, abortion is taking a life. And I couldn't do that.'
She described telling her understanding parents that she was pregnant before being unexpectedly barred from attending the college or taking part in its graduation ceremony.
'I broke down in a grocery store parking lot with my mom, and I cried as I told her the truth. She looked at me and said: "I'm not mad at you, I'm not upset with you. You're gonna be fine, and we're gonna make it through this." I still had to work up the courage to tell my dad, but when I finally did — the day I received my acceptance letter to Bob Jones — he reacted just like my mom: "It's going to be okay, sweetie," he said, "God is in this somewhere, we just need to find where He is in all of this."
'Unfortunately, my school didn't feel the same way...I wouldn't be allowed on campus until after the baby was born. I would be allowed to receive my diploma, but I would have to take all my classes at home, and wouldn't be allowed to walk at graduation.'
Runkles went on to make a Christian case against her college's position. 'When girls like me who go to pro-life schools make a brave pro-life decision, we shouldn't be hidden away in shame,' she wrote. 'The sin that got us into this situation is not worth celebrating, but after confession and forgiveness take place, we should be supported and treated like any other student. What we are going through is tough enough. Having to deal with the added shame of being treated like an outcast is nothing that any girl should have to go through.'
She described the aggressive reaction she received as a result of the publicity surrounding the case, which 'many' feared would damage the college's reputation.
'Many of the people in my town and at my school who had supported me and my family have turned on us since I went public, feeling that all the scrutiny was hurting Heritage Academy's reputation. We started getting nasty emails, angry posts on social media and rude remarks in person. People who had been supportive before are now telling me to shut up, suck it up and grow up. Because of the volume of anger from the community, my parents have decided to keep my brother and me at home for the rest of the school year.'
She concluded: 'I want other girls in my position to know you don't have to give in to pressure or fear of judgment...My school could have made an example of how to treat a student who made a mistake, owned up to it, accepted the consequences, and is now being supported in her decision to choose life. But they didn't. It is my hope that the next Christian school will make the right decision when the time comes.'