Mandatory “respect” for religion

The National Secular Society via Spiked:

University administrations are becoming increasingly “censorious”, with 43% of universities censoring speech that might “offend” religious people, according to online magazine Spiked.

The magazine’s Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) claims that 63.5% of UK universities “actively censor speech”.

Launching its third annual analysis of campus censorship, Spiked said: “The fight for the freedom to criticise religion, to blaspheme, was at the very heart of the historic fight for free speech. Yet it seems some universities, terrified of offending students of faith, are turning the clock back.”

It highlighted London South Bank University’s Code of Practice for Freedom of Speech, which warns students that one definition of an ‘unlawful meeting’ is one “at which there is a likelihood that the speaker(s) may… commit blasphemy”. In 2014 the University removed posters from their student atheist society for being “religiously offensive”. Following criticism the University removed the policy with a version that did not mention blasphemy, the document was hosted at the same address and gave no indication of when it was issued.

That’s a little confusing – I think it means the university tweaked its code after Spiked (or others) criticized it, but without saying it had tweaked, or when it had done so. But anyway – I have to wonder why they ever had such a code in the first place. Blasphemy? A mere likelihood of blasphemy? Was “unlawful”? That’s pathetic. I suppose some religious fanatic drew up the code and no one else read it carefully.

Warwick University’s Student Union Policy is also criticised for stating that speakers ‘must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups’. In 2015 the University’s student union barred Iranian-born secularist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie from speaking, claiming she was “highly inflammatory and could incite hatred” if allowed to take up secularist society invitation.

Trump isn’t helping. People are going to be even more defensive about any and all criticism of Islamism and Islam now, thanks to him. Islam, like all religions, should and must be wide open to criticism, because it makes such large claims on people’s loyalty, and gives such flimsy reason for those claims.

Nottingham University’s Student Union policy on “respecting religion” opposes “provocative” organisations and “certain groups with known antireligious views”.

We’re allowed to be anti-religion. This isn’t the 14th century.

5 Responses to “Mandatory “respect” for religion”