The LSE Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society has told the LSE Student Union to take a flying jump. I should think so too.
There are no reasonable grounds for the LSESU’s instruction because we are in no way violating their policies or byelaws. The cartoons on our Facebook page criticise religion in a satirical way and we totally reject any claim that their publications could constitute any sort of harassment or intimidation of Muslims or Christians.
That there was no deliberate intention to offend is illustrated by the fact that the cartoons were posted only on the LSESU ASH page and not in other spaces. But even if some people are offended, offence is not a sufficient reason for certain artistic and satirical forms of expression to be prohibited. A university should hold no idea sacred and be open to the critiquing of all ideas and ideologies.
We want to engage with LSESU and work with them further to resolve the situation, but not in a way that jeopardises the legitimate criticism or satirising of religious and other beliefs. That is a freedom which is indispensable.
And the fact that the LSE Student Union thinks otherwise is appalling.
Andrew Copson of the BHA commented:
The officers of LSESU ASH have clearly been reasonable in their dealings with their union and it is clearly unreasonable for a simple satirical depiction of religious figures to be deemed tantamount to intimidation of religious students. The freedom to criticise all sorts of beliefs and hold them open to satire as well as intellectual critique is a vital generator of intellectual progress – something which universities should safeguard.
Safeguard. Not discourage, not frown on, not scold, not try to terminate; safeguard.
The AHS and BHA also announced that they were beginning an investigation of how Student Unions were approaching issues of free speech and offence in relation to religious and non-religious beliefs with a view to providing guidance to institutions. [Jenny] Bartle [president of the National Federation of ASH] commented, ‘There has been too much conflation recently of being offended and being intimidated, with the implication being that they are equivalent. Such an assumption is a potential threat to free speech and free debate, and we are concerned to address this underlying problem in the long term.’
Good. Exactly so, and good.
Go to Free Expression Day. Sign the statement – along with Jessica Ahlquist, AC Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Jesus and Mo Creator, Taslima Nasrin, Salman Rushdie, Southall Black Sisters, Peter Tatchell, Alom Shaha, Deeya, Farzana Hassan, Gita Sahgal and many many more. Good company.