London South Bank University have issued an apology over the censorship of Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) posters at the South Bank Atheists Society (SBAS) freshers fair stall, which were removed by Union representatives claiming they were ‘offensive’. The poster publicising 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’. The President of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Students Societies (AHS) Rory Fenton and President of SBAS Cloe Ansari met with Union officials after the incident was publicised by the British Humanist Association (BHA).
This statement was below issued today at 15:00:
‘Both the Students’ Union and its elected representatives encourage and promote debate of all religious, political and social issues. We will always listen and respond to complaints made to us by our students but we do not condone censorship; we encourage and promote debate of all religious, political and social issues at the Students’ Union.
A complaint was made as the result of the interaction of individuals at a student-led event. In regards to the removal of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” poster, a Union staff member did remove the poster but did so with a misunderstanding of Union policies. It is not currently nor has it ever been the Union policy to censor student groups or the materials they produce and as such this was not an authorised act and we have now ensured that staff know that they should not do this. The refusal to reprint the poster was an extension of the same misunderstanding of our process and we have now rectified this.
We have apologised to the Atheist Society for the actions taken and the distress that it has caused. From a Union perspective the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ Poster has not been banned and we have agreed with the Atheist Society to reprint these posters and distribute them on campus for them. They will also be displayed inside the Union’s locked poster boards in order to prevent them being taken down by other students. We respect that all students are able to have opinions, but as a Union we wish to support the promotion and growth of any Union Society or activity without having to be subjected to harassment by fellow students. We remind students that the appropriate response to opinions they may find offensive is to engage in healthy debate respecting the rights of others to hold views or beliefs differing from their own.
In regards to the removal of the Atheist Society stall from the Fayre, this was due to a Pre-Planned Volunteering event, because of which resources and space were limited. To accommodate the situation we used a first come, first serve policy with the remaining tables and backing boards to make the best use of them. However, we do not wish to make excuses for posters having been removed and will from now on ensure that the policies the Union stand for are being observed by all our staff and all societies and members of the Union are treated fairly and equally. In recognising the distress caused to the society by our actions we have met with and apologised to The Atheist Society President and Vice president.
We recognise that poor communications on our part meant that the Atheist Society was not aware of the switch to first come first serve in regards to the Refreshers Stalls and this subsequently meant that they lost out on their space at the fayre to the LGBTQ Society. As such we will be looking into better communications and general relations with the Atheist Society and all LSBU societies.
The Atheist Society are as welcome at the Students’ Union as any group or Society and we completely respect and support their right to freedom of expression and free speech. We will continue to support the Atheist Society in this manner.’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented ‘It’s a good thing that sense has prevailed and an apology has been made to the society at London South Bank. Events have followed the same pattern as those involving our affiliate at the LSE where censorship of a cartoon of Mohammed was followed by an apology and admission that the censorship had been unjustified. Hopefully these cases will serve as an example to overly officious wannabe censors at other institutions.’
AHS President Rory Fenton commented ‘Again and again our members are censored and then apologised to. Apologies are all very well but it would be better if these incidents never occurred. The appropriate response to being offended is to engage in debate, not censorship. We will be looking for ways to pursue this issue further with national student bodies, national university bodies and public bodies including the Government to seek whatever amendments to law and policy are essential to prevent this sort of interference with our members’ legitimate activities. I hope that this statement from South Bank’s Students’ Union will encourage other Students’ Unions to reflect on their responsibilities towards the rights of their students.’
SBAS President Cloe Ansari commented, ‘I welcome this statement and apology from the Students’ Union. We are glad that junior union officials will no longer be able to censor our society or prevent us from holding debates. It is encouraging that the Union President and CEO have fully supported our right to free speech, we hope that this support will be accepted by the Union officials who had censored and harassed us. We will be meeting with the Union President and CEO again in two months to follow-up on their commitments.’
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.