UK student association forbids group to show posters, logo, anything pro-life
September 20, 2019 (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) — A pro-life student group has been ordered to tear down posters at a university freshers' week in a censorship row just months after being embroiled in a legal fight for recognition at their student association.
The Strathclyde Students for Life group successfully secured their rights including the right to be treated equally only last year.
However, the group was left shocked after representatives from the student body confronted them at the freshers' fayre and demanded that their stall materials were to be removed. The materials offered support to pregnant women and included a picture of a toddler with Down syndrome.
The student association has now been accused of "censorship".
The pro-life group assert that their posters are inoffensive and innocuous and do not feature anything which anyone could consider to be inappropriate.
Catherine Deighan, President of Strathclyde Students for Life, condemned the student body's actions.
She said: "It has taken several years for the Strathclyde Students for Life to affiliate officially at The University of Strathclyde, so for our first year coming to the fresher fayre we were fully expecting to come in and be treated equally just like all the other students. However, we weren't provided with this courtesy.
"We were approached by a Student Association staff member who made us feel very intimidated and uneasy. He ordered us to take down our posters because he deemed them in violation of a new so-called pro-choice policy that the union had put in place.
"So, this meant taking down our posters with our society logo because he deemed it graphic. Our logo is the silhouette of a developed and grown baby. Being ordered to take down our materials meant we had no way to reach students. We had nothing to show our Facebook page or phone number. We had no way to reach out at all.
"This left us being unable to say or do anything. We felt disenfranchised and powerless. We were told that if we said we were pro-life, this was in violation of their policy. We felt extremely unwelcome and bullied so we had to pack up and leave to protect our society members' wellbeing. We have been entirely discriminated against and censored.
"The materials we had on the stall were supportive leaflets for students facing a crisis pregnancy, we had information for any students seeking post-abortion counselling, we had leaflets giving information about our upcoming events, we had 'life is precious' bookmarks and pictures of ourselves at trips and meetings. We had no graphic imagery whatsoever or any explicit content. Our logo is a cartoon of a developed baby."
The Strathclyde ban on pro-life groups was only lifted after a long-running row over freedom of speech on campus. The students' association voted to remove a clause preventing pro-life groups from affiliating with the union after being threatened with court action.
The move meant that pro-life groups that successfully affiliated with the University of Strathclyde Students' Association (USSA) would be entitled to the same opportunities and resources as other affiliated groups.
The row comes at a time of growing concerns that universities have become too politically correct and are stifling free speech by banning anything alleged to cause offence.
The actions undertaken by the student union staff appear to contravene their own Equal Opportunities and Discrimination Policy which binds them to treat people of all beliefs and backgrounds equally.
Michael Robinson, Director of Communications and Campaigns for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children described the situation as "a shameful attack on young students".
Mr Robinson said: "The discriminatory actions undertaken by USSA staff, are a shameful attack on young students at the infancy of their university experience."
"Universities should and need to be the very places where individuals can share their ideas, express their views and debate them freely and openly. The apparent bullying undertaken by staff is part of the continuous onslaught to stifle freedom of speech and stamp out any semblance of a pro-life voice on campus."
"Ending innocent human lives can never be justified so censorship strategies have to be tightly enforced. It is sad that it is in universities where these enemies of freedom are flourishing. They are the petty dictators of our age, who with self-righteous zeal can tolerate no-one's thought but their own.
"Abortion has been mis-sold as a tool of women's freedom when in fact it is a coercive weapon often used by men to force women to abort their own child. How tragic that a man has done all he can to silence two young women at a stall wanting to speak on the issue of abortion. It encapsulates the truth of the debate. Men want women to have abortions and have used other women, often victims themselves, to agitate on their behalf."
The situation was also condemned by the Bishops Conference of Scotland. Paisley's Bishop John Keenan said:
"The students felt so intimidated by representatives from the Strathclyde University Students Association.
"Sadly, Strathclyde University Students Association has a long and discreditable history of acting against pro-life students which shames the Association and, by implication, the University.
"I imagine the University itself must be frustrated and embarrassed that its student body just cannot just live and let live the views of the very body of students they are elected to serve, and prefer to make them feel uneasy for holding positions that are wholly mainstream and reasonable.
"Restrictions on freedom of speech and expression are always concerning. When those restrictions are being imposed in a university, which should be a bastion of freedom, it is positively alarming.
"I urge the Student Association to revisit this policy, to treat all its students with due regard and to promote respect and coexistence."
Published with permission from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.