University apologises for banning ‘blasphemous’ T-Shirts
A university has apologised after forcing two students to cover up satirical T-shirts depicting the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus.
Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis were running a stall for the Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society at the London School of Economics freshers' fair in October, when they were ordered to cover up their T-Shirts or risk being physically removed from the building.
They were told that the T-Shirts showing images from the comic strip 'Jesus and Mo' amounted to "harrasment of a religious group."
The university claimed that the T-shirts were "clearly designed to depict Mohammed and Jesus in a provocative manner" and said a number of complaints had been made about them.
The treatment of the two students led to widespread condemnation and protest from leading secular figures including Richard Dawkins.
Moos and Phadnis made an official complaint and have now received an apology from the university.
LSE Director Professor Craig Calhoun wrote to the two men admitting that their actions did not amount to harrasment and did not breach any laws or university policies.
"Members of staff acted in good faith and sought to manage the competing interests of complainant students and yourselves in a way that they considered to be in the best interests of all parties on the days in question," Calhoun said today.
"LSE takes its duty to promote free speech very seriously, and as such, will discuss and learn from the issues raised by recent events," a spokesperson added.
Moos and Phadnis described the statement as a "half apology".
"We welcome the LSE's admission that its staff misjudged the situation, and their acknowledgement that we were well within our rights to wear 'Jesus & Mo' t-shirts on campus and that this neither amounted to harassment nor contravened the law or LSE policies," they said in a joint statement.
"Even as we welcome Professor Calhoun's apology, we are disappointed that it took the threat of legal action to elicit an acknowledgement of our grievances, and that no apology has been forthcoming from the LSESU, whose grave misconduct began this chain of harassment. We also believe that several other lingering concerns must be put on record."
The university's apology was today welcomed by campaigners.
"We congratulate students for their fearless defence of freedom of expression. This is a welcome apology from LSE, and it should be congratulated for making it publicly, whether or not the threat of legal action played any role," the president of the National Secular Soicety, Terry Sanderson said today.
"We all have to learn that being offended is an inevitable part of life, having one's fondest beliefs challenged is part of a free society. Let's hope that lessons have been learned and we don't have any repeat of this."