The London School of Economics (LSE) have today apologised to Chris Moos and Abhishek Phandis, representatives of the student Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (LSEASH), who wore t-shirts featuring the popular Jesus and Mo cartoon at the SU Freshers’ Fair on 3 October, and who were asked to cover their t-shirts or face removal from the Fair.
The LSE has published a statement online, including an apology for the disproportionate action and confirming that the students in question did no wrong. The British Humanist Association (BHA) and National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Students Societies (AHS), of which the LSEASH is a member, have both welcomed the LSE’s statement.
Professor Calhoun of the LSE wrote to the students involved ‘acknowledging that, with hindsight, the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies,’ and he also said, ‘LSE takes its duty to promote free speech very seriously, and as such, will discuss and learn from the issues raised by recent events.’
Rory Fenton, President of AHS commented, ‘This statement is very welcome and we hope it will serve as a deterrent to any further attempts at chilling free speech or expression by institutions. We are very concerned by the tendency to censor our affiliated societies for fear of offending religious sensitivities and see this as an important step in recognising our members' right to free speech: the same rights that also ensure freedom of expression for religious students. Universities must recognise that their duty is to their students, not their students' beliefs.’
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA commented, ‘This is a triumph of reason of the sort that should prevail at our universities. Current equality law intended to provide hospitable environments for all should not be used to curtail free expression in an academic environment, even if that expression is used to may seem peculiar or even abhorrent to others. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are fundamental aspects of an open, democratic and just society.’
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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.