Free speech outcry as images of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are banned from London South Bank University for offending religious people

 

It was meant as a humorous poster to promote a secular society during a university start of term event, but the image of Michelangelo’s famous ‘Creation of Adam’ fresco featuring the satirical deity the Flying Spaghetti Monster has sparked an unlikely freedom of speech row.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster came about as a humorous response to the teaching of intelligent design in American schools in 2005. It has since caught on as an anti-religion statement and become popular with secular societies on British university campuses.

The offending poster was put up at London South Bank University last week by non-religious students from the South Bank Atheist Society, only for it to be reportedly removed by student union officials for being “religiously offensive”.

Initially the secular student society reported it was told that “Adam’s genitals” were the issue before union officials allegedly told them the posters caused “religious offences” and their stall was banned from the start-of-term student event.

The campus row has been seized upon by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the National Federation of Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Students Societies (AHS) who have condemned the poster’s removal as “utterly ridiculous” and part of “rising tide of frivolous censorship” at British universities.

Choe Ansari, 21, president of the South Bank Atheist Society, which put up the posters, said “This incident is just one of a catalogue of attempts to censor our society. I never expected to face such blatant censorship and fragile sensibilities at university, I thought this would be an institution where I could challenge beliefs and in turn be challenged.”

Ms Ansari, a second-year English student, added that during her time at the university she has seen “religious sensibilities trumping all other rights with no space for argument, challenge or reasoned debate”.

Andrew Copson, BHA chief executive, said “This silliness is unfortunately part of an on-going trend. In the last few years we have seen our affiliated societies in campus after campus subjected to petty censorship in the name of offence – often even when no offence has been caused or taken.

“Hypersensitive union officials are totally needlessly harassing students whose only desire is to get on and run totally legitimate social and political societies.”

Rory Fenton, president of the AHS, added “We are very concerned by the tendency to censor our affiliated societies for fear of offending religious sensitivities by overly zealous union representatives. Universities need again to be reminded to recognise our members’ right to free speech: the same rights that also ensure freedom of expression for religious students, adherents to Flying Spaghetti Monster, whoever they are included. Universities must recognise that their duty is to their students, not their students’ beliefs.’

This pasta-based freedom of speech row comes after the London School of Economics was forced to apologise to two students from a secular and humanist society who were forced to cover up T-shirts featuring pictures from a satirical comic strip Jesus and Mo.

The row over images of the “Jesus & Mohammed” satire itself followed a rising tide of criticism that universities were stifling freedom of speech by allowing gender segregated lectures to be held by Islamic student groups.

Barbara Ahland, the president of London South Bank University’s student union, said: “The Students Union has been made aware of an alleged incident that took place at the Refreshers’ Fayre last week. We are taking the allegation very seriously and an investigation is taking place.” 

A spokesperson for the University said it “hosts student societies on campus with a wide range of viewpoints” and works to “achieve an inclusive and supportive environment for all of our students“.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider to the fa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Analyst - Global ERP Implementation - London

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy