Non-religious students at London South Bank University have had posters advertising their society banned for being ‘offensive’. The poster publicising the South Bank Atheist Society (SBAS) depicted Michelangelo’s famous ‘Creation of Adam’ fresco from the Sistine Chapel but with the character of god replaced with the satirical online deity the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ (FSM).
The British Humanist Association (BHA) and National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Students Societies (AHS), of which SBAS is a member, have expressed exasperation and condemned the decision as ‘utterly ridiculous’ and part of ‘rising tide of frivolous censorship that is curtailing the legitimate activities of our members.’
SBAS displayed the well-known image of the FSM on their pre-prepared stall the day before the freshers’ fair last week but when they returned to the stall the following day found that the posters had been removed. When they went to print some more to replace the missing posters they were stopped by union representatives who said that the posters had been deemed offensive and that it was the union that had removed them. Initially SBAS were told that it was the visibility of Adam’s genitals that was offensive but when SBAS offered to blur them out, they were told the problem was religious offence, because it was based on religious art. Their stall was removed by the student union authorities the next day and their official complaint against this action was still unanswered by the time the fair was over, preventing them from exhibiting.
President of South Bank Atheist Society Cloe Ansari commented ‘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. All I have seen is religious sensibilities trumping all other rights with no space for argument, challenge or reasoned debate. It is not what I expected when I came to university.’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘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.’
President of the AHS Rory Fenton commented, ‘This is beyond parody and it is not the first time one of our groups have had similar problems with South Bank University. 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 reminded to recognise our members’ right to free speech: the same rights that also ensure freedom of expression for religious students, adherents to FSM whoever they are included. Universities must recognise that their duty is to their students, not their students’ beliefs.’
Read the full SBAS statement here.
The existence of the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ was first noted by Bobby Henderson in a letter he wrote to the Kansas State Board of Education in 2005. Henderson argued that whilst there was nothing wrong with schools teaching multiple viewpoints as to the origins of man, if they taught Intelligent Design alongside evolution it would be wrong to teach only one version of Intelligent Design. Henderson told the Board of Education, that there were many people who believed that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster, and if schools were allowed to teach the Biblical version of Intelligent Design in science classes then they should allot equal time to teaching about Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. Henderson offered many compelling arguments for how Flying Spaghetti Monsterism disproves scientific research, including the fact that every time science carbon dates something the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there ‘changing the results with His Noodly Appendage’. Henderson also proved in his letter how global warming was a direct result of a decrease in the number of working pirates.
Henderson concluded his letter by saying “I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (Pastafarianism), and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”
In the wake of Henderson’s revelation of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the number of followers of the spaghetti and meatball deity has grown exponentially. Followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster refer to themselves as Pastafarians or Spagnostics, wear colanders on their heads and strongly oppose the teaching of creationism in the science classroom.
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.
The National Federation of Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Students Societies (AHS) is a network of 51 student societies facilitated and supported by the British Humanist Association.