Religious bigotry and censorship at LSE

October 6, 2013 at 10:39 am (Jim D, Civil liberties, Free Speech, students, secularism, Islam, religion, grovelling, strange situations, Christianity, relativism, humanism, atheism, capitulation, academe)

How has it come to this? And how is that some who regard themselves as on the “left” not only tolerate religious bigotry and censorship of this sort, but actively promote it?

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Statement from the British Humanist Association

LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society incident at freshers’ fair

October 4th, 2013

 
Representatives of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society have been threatened with removal from their University’s freshers’ fair by their Students’ Union after refusing to remove t-shirts depicting the online comic ‘Jesus and Mo’. The society’s members were threatened on the basis that the t-shirts were could be considered  ‘harassment’,  as  they  could  ‘offend  others’  by  creating  an  ‘offensive environment’.

In a statement, the students have explained:

‘When the LSE security arrived, we were asked to cover our t-shirts or leave LSE premises. When we asked for the rules and regulations we were in breach of, we were told that the LSE was being consulted about how to proceed. After a period of consultation, Kevin Haynes (LSE Legal and Compliance Team) and Paul Thornbury (LSE Head of Security) explained to us that we were not behaving in an “orderly and responsible manner”, and that the wearing of the t-shirt could be considered “harassment”, as it could “offend others” by creating an “offensive environment”. We asked what exactly was “offensive” about the t-shirts, and how the display of a non-violent and non-racist comic strip could be considered “harassment” of other students.

‘At the end of this conversation, five security guards started to position themselves around our stall. We felt this was a tactic to intimidate us. We were giving an ultimatum that should we not comply immediately, we would be physically removed from LSE property. We made it clear that we disagreed strongly with this interpretation of the rules, but that we would comply by covering the t-shirts… After that, the head of LSE security told us that as he believed that we might open the jackets again when was going to leave, two security guards were going to stay in the room to monitor our behaviour. These two security guards were following us closely when we went in and out of the room.’

You can see their statement of events on the second day.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA), commented, ‘The LSESU is acting in a totally disproportionate manner in their dealings with our affiliate society. That a satirical webcomic can be deemed to be so offensive as to constitute harassment is a sad indictment of the state of free speech at Britain’s Universities today. This hysteria on the part of the SU and University is totally unwarranted; intelligent young adults of whatever beliefs are not so sensitive that they need to be protected from this sort of material in an academic institution. Our lawyers are advising our affiliated society at LSE and we will be working with them, the students, and the AHS  to resolve this issue.’

The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies strongly condemns the actions of the LSESU. President Rory Fenton said, ‘Our member societies deserve and rightly demand the same freedom of speech and expression afforded to their religious counterparts on campus. Universities should be open to and tolerant of different beliefs, without exception. That a students’ union would use security guards to follow and intimidate their own members is deeply concerning and displays an inconsistent approach to free speech; if it is for some, it must be for all. The AHS will work with our partners at the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society to assist our affiliated society and seek engagement with both the LSESU and LSE itself. It is the duty of universities countrywide to respect their students’ rights, not their sensitivities.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633 or Rory Fenton on 07403141133.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

14 Comments

  1. Andrew Coates said,

    It is a disgrace that the LSE now seems to have its own “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” on the Saudi model.

  2. Rosie B said,

  3. Rosie B said,

    I hope this blows up in the Union’s face.

  4. Karl Dallas said,

    As a Christian I support the right of anyone to make fun of my religion. But I’m aware that to Muslims, representations of the Prophet are offensive. (Actually representations of ANYONE are forbidden, which is why all the images of Khomeini et al which I’ve seen in Shia mosques are so weird to me.)
    I feel inclined to join the protest in favour of religious satire, but I’d need to see what was actually ON the T-shirts complained about. After all, I’d gladly ban any representation of Jews as hook-nosed shekel-counting Shylocks or Blacks as over-endowed rapists.
    There are plenty of examples of Islamic satire on the web.

  5. Jim Denham said,

    Karl: I haven’t seen the T-shirts, but I understand the design was from the ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon strip, so we can be fairly sure that there was nothing there that any rational person could object to.

  6. Jim Denham said,

    Here are the T shirts:

    Jay Stoll & LSE Sabbatical Officers: Apologise for the blatant attack on free speech & mistreatment of LSE students at Freshers’ Fayre. :

  7. jimmy glesga said,

    I have a Tshirt which says abstinance makes the church grow fondlers. A guy with a Celtic Tap on took offence to it but I suspect it gave him happy memories.

  8. Religious bigotry and censorship at LSE | OzHouse said,

    […] Oct 07 2013 by admin […]

  9. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    So why assume automatically that the LSE and its student union are ‘on the left’?

    Many militant atheists are in fact right-wing ‘libertarians’ and the most vociferous haters of Islam tend to be fascists.

    And as for the LSE this really is not 1968 and the typical student will be reading the Financial Times rather than Socialist Worker.

    This is not a simple left-right issue.

    • Jim Denham said,

      But it was the “left” (or at least, a section of it) who, in the 1990’s, and in the student movement in particular, introduced the idea that there was no right to “give offence” and that people who did should be “no platformed.”

      As I understand it, the likes of ‘Socialist Action’ continue that tradition. I bet it’s people like that, and not right-wing ‘libertarians’ (loathsome as they are) who are behind what happened at the LSE.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        I have no idea who runs the LSESU these days and it is indeed probable that they include people on ‘the left’.

        And my point was that any actual right-libertarians would be much more likely to be demanding the right to offend than demanding anyone cracks down on it.

        However the real motivations here are I think far more commercial and corporate in the wider sense than political.

        Look at how quickly the LSE legal and security people stepped in.

        The LSE is only financially viable at all due to its very high percentage of foreign students paying inflated overseas fees (51% of students are non-EU and I myself some years ago was told it was pointless to even apply for a postgraduate course as they’d ‘filled their quota of UK students’).

        Many of these students (including of course a Gaddafi) have traditionally come from the Islamic world.

        Ergo anything which might get the LSE reported abroad as a hotbed of Islamophobic racism (or indeed of any sort of serious political activism that might disconcert the parents of the new global Jeunesse d’Oree whichever kleptocracy they now hail from) really has to be crushed immediately.

        That this managerialist need fits in with the agenda of whatever fragments of the pseudo-left that might still be knocking around the LSESU is just fortuitous.

        Now if we can identify LSESU officials who are affiliated with Socialist Action or whatever there would be a case to be made.

        But this article doesn’t establish that.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        Would also point out that when No Platform was at its height (arguably the mid-to-late 80s rather than 90s) very few current LSE students would even have been born…..

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