The LSS has welcomed the news that the London School of Economics has apologised to two of their students who wore “Jesus and Mo” T-shirts.
At the annual Freshers’ Fair in October of this year, LSE students Abhishek Phadnis and Chris Moos of the LSE Students Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) were told they would be physically removed unless they covered up T-shirts which were deemed to be “offensive”. Student Union officials removed materials from the ASH stand and demanded that the group remove their “Jesus and Mo” T-shirts. The group eventually complied by covering up their T-shirts but were closely followed by security guards for the rest of the day.
Abhishek and Chris formally instructed a QC and a firm of solicitors, and they challenged the decisions of the LSE. The LSS has strongly supported Abhishek and Chris, and it has strongly condemned the actions of the LSE/LSESU (see here and here).
Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:
“I think this is what you call a victory for common sense.
“The LSS has nothing but the highest admiration for Abhishek and Chris for challenging the absurd and hyper-sensitive actions of their university on such a crucial issue as free expression in the context of religion.
“Whilst welcoming the apology from the LSE, the LSS asks the university to reflect on the completely unnecessary and avoidable anxiety it has caused Abhishek and Chris – not to mention anyone else who values the idea of free expression. It has taken a long-winded complaints process, and the formal instruction by Abhishek and Chris of a leading QC and a highly-regarded law firm to establish that students in a 21st century democracy are allowed to wear a “Jesus and Mo” T-shirt.
“This decision comes hot on the heels of the withdrawal by Universities UK of their ludicrous guidance endorsing gender segregation imposed by external speakers on the basis of “genuinely-held” religious beliefs. Abhishek and Chris were also involved in the protest against UUK (as was the LSS) which culminated in UUK’s withdrawal of that guidance.
“Whilst secularists pop a few champagne corks to celebrate two victories in short succession, at the same time we ask ourselves just why we are celebrating the right to wear a T-shirt, or the confirmation that gender segregation is a bad thing. Just what on earth is happening in UK universities?
“It has been clear to the LSS for some time now that university campuses increasingly resemble the front line of a war against established secular values which protect the rights of everyone – religious or non-religious. Were it not for the actions of Abhishek and Chris, and everyone else who has campaigned alongside them or even just supported them, one shudders to think what kind of precedent LSE and UUK would have created on UK campuses.”
Update: full statement from Abhishek Phadnis and Chris Moos in response to LSE’s “half-apology” here.
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