A Scottish bishop has welcomed new proposals by the Government to protect free speech at universities.
Bishop John Keenan of Paisley said he was glad that universities would be held to account when groups were banned “on the pretext of protecting other students’ feelings”.
From April a new regulator, the Office for Students, could fine, suspend or deregister universities that do not uphold free speech, under proposals now open for consultation.
Pro-life groups have been a particular target for “no-platforming” campaigns.
Last year the students’ union at Strathclyde University blocked a pro-life group from becoming affiliated to it, saying the establishment of such groups violated students’ “safe space”.
Bishop Keenan said: “In one sense I am glad to see this announcement that universities will be held to account when they ban groups, like pro-life, from campus on the pretext of protecting other students’ feelings and wellbeing. It seems that all you have to do nowadays is to talk about your own particular set of victims being hurt by your opponent’s ideas in order to censor any opinions you do not like from the public square.
“Maybe the mask of this political tactic is beginning to slip and we are returning to the norm that authentic free speech does not set out to victimise anyone and so should not be taken too personally.”
Bishop Keenan said he was “saddened” that universities seemed to “have lost their role as the wise guardians of society and now need society to come in and save them from themselves.”
In announcing the proposals, universities minister Jo Johnson said that universities needed to “open minds, not close them” and that groups must not stifle those with whom they disagree.
Teilhard group dissolves as Vatican ‘rehabilitates’ mystic
An association dedicated to the Jesuit thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has been dissolved due to falling membership.
The news came just weeks after the Pontifical Council for Culture asked Pope Francis to remove a decades-old official warning against Teilhard’s works.
The British Teilhard Association, founded in 1963, had about 30 subscribers left. Of £46,000 in remaining funds, £4,000 was spent on maintaining its website, teilhard.org.uk, for a decade, and £40,000 is being used to fund an annual Teilhard seminar to be run by Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies. The group will continue as the British Teilhard Network.
Stephen Retout, the association’s chairman, said that in its heyday in the 1960s it had an office in Kensington and a full-time member of staff. More recently subscribers had been paying a fee without receiving anything in return. Until a few years ago, Mr Retout said, meetings had been hosted by Lady Astor, a Catholic convert who died last month.
Pius XII called Teilhard’s work a “cesspool of error” but Benedict XVI and Pope Francis praised some of his thought.