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Monday, 7 October 2013

Freedom of Speech - it's for all!

The London School of Economics is not a place I've ever visited.  Indeed, I have always thought of it as being something of a hot-bed for radical socialism!   It came as a surprise, therefore, to read that, at a 'Freshers' Fair' on Thursday, members of its atheist society were forced to cover up satirical T-shirts depicting Jesus and Mohammed.  Security guards and Students' Union officers threatened two representatives of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student society with expulsion after several students complained about the shirts, which featured characters from the 'popular' “Jesus and Mo” web-comic.

Stephen Evans, of the National Secular Society, said: "There is something very disturbing about the curtailing of free speech on university campuses simply on the grounds of claimed offence. Being offended from time to time is the price you pay for living in an open and free society. If any religion is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation.".   On Friday, that champion of free speech (for himself!), Richard Dawkins, waded into the row, describing the SU reps as “sanctimonious little prigs”. He tweeted: “I'm "offended" by backwards baseball caps, chewing gum, niqabs, "basically" and "awesome". Quick, LSE Student Union, ban them all.”

It's interesting that it is often people like Richard Dawkins and the National Secular Society who are at the forefront of attempts to stifle Christian comment.  Many will recall that, in July, the progress of a pro-children campaign stalled after a truck carrying two of its mobile billboards was vandalised and the driver of the van displaying them was threatened, in central London. The "GayMarriageNo Thanks" group released billboards aimed at highlighting the fact that children do better with married birth parents, and arranged for the poster to be driven around London on an advertising truck over two days. However, after the driver received abuse and the truck carrying the billboards was vandalised, the advertising company, Adtrailers Ltd, informed Alan Craig, campaign director for GayMarriageNoThanks, that they were “unable to send out the advertising truck today following yesterday’s campaign day. Unfortunately the driver out yesterday received threats, the truck was vandalised and there have been several offensive complaints received.” A company representative also informed Mr Craig that people had made personal threats by email, and over the 'phone, which were “horrific”, “violent stuff” and “the worst I have known”.

I know that the incident took place some time ago - but I don't recall either Mr Dawkins, or the National Secular Society, championing the cause of free speech, or referring to the perpetrators of the vandalism, and the threats, as "sanctimonious little prigs”!

It's the same old story - those who shout the most loudly about tolerance and free speech for themselves, are often the first to deny either to those who happen not to agree with them!  It's a pity that they don't analyse the old adage: "What's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander"!

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