The London School of Economics is accused of persecuting and harassing freethinking students after members of the school’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society were told they would be physically removed from the annual Freshers' Fair unless they covered up t-shirts deemed "offensive."
On Friday, Oct.4, the London School of Economics (LSE) and the London School of Economics Student Union issued a statement attempting to justify their censorship and harassment of the free thinking students while at the same time making the ironic and hypocritical claim that “LSE is committed to promoting freedom of expression.”
On Thursday, Oct. 3, members of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society were told that they would be physically removed from the fair unless they covered up the “offensive” Jesus and Mo T-shirts worn by members while attending the annual fair.
Reports indicate that even after the students covered up the so-called “offensive” T-shirts they were harassed and intimidated by school security forces.
In a written statement, Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, said:
"We reject in the strongest possible terms that by wearing a non-violent, non-racist t-shirt we would harass other students or create an "offensive environment". We reject completely that we were not behaving in an "orderly or responsible manner."
In fact, when faced with the entirely unreasonable request to change or cover up our clothing, we remained calm and asked for clarification on what rules or regulations we were alleged to be in breach of. Even though we completely disagreed with the instructions of the LSE, we still complied, making clear that we would challenge this decision through the appropriate procedures.
"As much as we respect and defend the rights of others to wear whatever they choose to wear, we claim this right for ourselves. Our right to free expression and participation in the LSE student community is being curtailed for no other reason than that we are expressing views that are not shared by others.
The t-shirts worn are harmless satirical depictions of fictitious religious figures and certainly cannot be considered intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to anyone by even the most stringent standards."
About the incident, Stephen Evans, campaigns manager at the British 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.”
Evans is correct, the LSE and the LSE SU set a dangerous precedent by stifling the intellectual freedom of students. The images on the T-shirts represent nothing but harmless and mild satire. Religious superstitions are always in need of critique, satire, and even ridicule. To prohibit such, is to fail as an academic institute “committed to promoting freedom of expression.”
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