Attack on religious free speech at University College London stopped
An attempt to stop the issue of abortion being freely discussed at University College London (UCL) has failed after a coalition of students objected to what they considered to be a serious attack on free speech.
Earlier this year, the student union at UCL officially declared their campus ‘pro-choice’ and voted to restrict the Catholic Society from having their own debates and speakers, forcing them to invite pro-abortion speakers to pro-life discussions.
The passed motion stated that: ‘Any future open events focusing on the issue of termination invite an anti-choice speaker and a pro-choice speaker as well as an independent chair, to ensure there is a balance to the argument.’
The student union also voted to adopt a fixed pro-abortion stance and formally affiliate itself to the national pro-abortion organisation ‘Abortion Rights’.
A group of students, however, took legal advice and threatened the student union with a legal challenge unless the motion was overturned.
They pointed out that the resolutions breached s43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 which defends freedom of speech in Universities, and also breached Articles 9 (Freedom of Religion), 10 (Freedom of Speech) and 11 (Freedom of Association) in the European Convention of Human Rights.
On 22nd March a meeting of the student union’s trustees accepted that the anti-free speech resolution was unlawful and that student societies cannot be forced to invite pro-abortion speakers to their events.
Trustees were also told that proposals to affiliate and donate to the political ‘Abortion Rights’ campaign were against the charity laws that govern student unions.
Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, which advised the students, said:
“I am delighted with this result which is due to the courage of pro-life students refusing to be intimidated.
“I find it worrying that a students’ union should be so ignorant of the concept of free speech and demonstrate such a totalitarian and intolerant mindset.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“This was an attempt to stop freedom of speech and belief. It is a snapshot of what is happening across the country. Deeply held beliefs are being labelled as offensive and those who hold them are being victimised.
“It’s significant that this happened on the campus of a respected university. It demonstrates clearly that something is very wrong with our society.
“Political correctness is being used to control what people can think or say. It is an ideology that must be challenged because it’s undermining historic freedoms in a significant way.”