There appears to be a bit of a competition going on between the UK based Reading University students union (RUSU) and the London School of Economics students union. Last year we saw the RUSU get themselves worked up into a tizzy because student secular society had a Pineapple on their stall at the Fresher fayre labelled Mohammed. This year, RUSU has disaffiliated them, but is quite happy to for the batshit insane religious societies to remain in place to continue to promote things that are not only not actually true, but are also also highly offensive.
Not to be outdone, the Students Union at the London School of Economics appears to be taking a similar stance. The national Secular Society explains …
A row over free expression has broken out at the London School of Economics after members of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society were told they would be physically removed from the annual Freshers’ Fair unless they covered up t-shirts deemed “offensive”.
… After a period of consultation a member of the LSE Legal and Compliance Team and Head of Security told the members of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society that the wearing of the t-shirts could be considered “harassment”, as it could “offend others” by creating an “offensive environment”.
And these offensive T-Shirts were …
… Jesus and Mo cartoons. We have a special magical word for this, it is called satire.
In a written statement, Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, said:
“We reject in the strongest possible terms that by wearing a non-violent, non-racist t-shirt we would harass other students or create an “offensive environment”. We reject completely that we were not behaving in an “orderly or responsible manner”. In fact, when faced with the entirely unreasonable request to change or cover up our clothing, we remained calm and asked for clarification on what rules or regulations we were alleged to be in breach of. Even though we completely disagreed with the instructions of the LSE, we still complied, making clear that we would challenge this decision through the appropriate procedures.
“As much as we respect and defend the rights of others to wear whatever they choose to wear, we claim this right for ourselves. Our right to free expression and participation in the LSE student community is being curtailed for no other reason than that we are expressing views that are not shared by others. The t-shirts worn are harmless satirical depictions of fictitious religious figures and certainly cannot be considered intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to anyone by even the most stringent standards.”
Now, as a hat tip to the LSE Students Union, we have this latest Jesus and Mo cartoon …
Let’s be very clear about something, there are indeed human rights, in fact some rather basic ones are in play here.
There is Freedom of Thought – You can believe whatever you wish even if it is obvious to everybody else that it is not true. This extends to all, because not only can religious people believe whatever they wish, non-religious can believe it all to be what it actually is … bullshit.
There is Freedom of Speech – The religious can, if they wish, promote their ideas and beliefs and happily criticise other beliefs or non-beliefs. However, the non-religious also have the right to criticise irrational beliefs. What nobody has the right to do is to impose their beliefs upon others … period.
There is also the right to not-be-offended when criticism is deployed against an idea or belief you promote – Oh wait … that’s not a human right.
What this incident does clearly demonstrate is that a couple of the student unions out there are being run by a bunch of religious bigots who will quite happily trample all over basic human rights so as not to offend a few hyper-sensitive religious kooks. Once you start down that road you place yourself in a very dangerous position, because as soon as you permit a religion a privilege that entitles it to suppress any and all criticism, then you have effectively abandoned the concept of a free and open society.
Suppressing racial harassment deployed against Muslims is wholly appropriate, in fact suppressing harassment deployed anybody because they have a specific belief is also appropriate, but suppressing fact-based criticism of ideas and beliefs is not suppressing harassment, but rather is harassment. Sadly a couple of the Student Unions out there are simply too stupid to grasp that basic concept and so have ended up crossing the line and are now suppressing basic human rights.
The LSESU and also the RUSU have in effect become platforms for religious thugs to gag freedom of speech.
- Alex Gabriel writes about the LSE incidentl here … and also about what is happening at Reading here
- National Secular Society article
- Freethinker article here
- You can get your very own “offensive” T-Shirt here.