In a joint submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) on free speech in universities, Humanists UK and its section Humanist Students have called for the Government to issue clear guidance outlining the legal protections for freedom of speech on campus, and that it should only be curtailed in universities in the most extreme circumstances. In a separate submission, Faith to Faithless has called for changes to the Prevent guidance. Humanists UK is a strong exponent of the right to free speech, including the criticism of religious and non-religious beliefs.
Humanists UK and Humanist Students’ submission details several incidents where Humanist Students-affiliated societies were unjustly censored or prevented from holding events because their activities were deemed to be ‘offensive’. In each case, after Humanists UK and its lawyers got involved, the university or students’ union involved later withdraw their complaints and apologised to the students. Humanists UK’s Chief Executive, Andrew Copson, also gave oral evidence to the JCHR on the matter in November.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Our submission calls for the Government to issue guidance to all universities and students’ unions in England and Wales making it clear that firstly, freedom of speech should only be limited in a narrow range of circumstances such as if such speech would constitute a crime of itself, and secondly, criticism or ridicule of a religion or belief, or of its adherents is protected by law. Universities should not attempt to censor, prevent or discipline those who choose to exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression in this way.’
Faith to Faithless, a support network for apostates supported by Humanists UK, has also submitted evidence to the JCHR focusing upon the impact of the Prevent Counter-Terrorism Strategy upon free speech in universities. Faith to Faithless calls upon the Government to reframe the guidance for Prevent so that critical discussion of religious beliefs is not mislabelled as ‘extremism.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0781 55 89 636.
Read Humanists UK and Humanist Students’ joint submission: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/human-rights-committee/freedom-of-speech-in-universities/written/75601.html
Read more about our campaign work on free speech and expression: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/freedom-of-speech-and-expression/
Read more about Humanist Students:https://humanism.org.uk/students/
Read more about Faith to Faithless: https://faithtofaithless.com/
Humanist Students is the student section of Humanists UK, the national charity representing the non-religious. At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have.
Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/