An AHS member society, Southbank University Atheist Society (SBAS), had a poster depicting the Flying Spaghetti Monster removed from its “refreshers fair” stall by their students’ union on grounds of causing “religious offence”. The AHS are very concerned by this bizarrely sensitive act as further evidence of intentional hostility by Southbank’s students union towards our member society there.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Pastafarianism, a parody religious movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in state schools. The SA displayed the well known image of the FSM on their pre-prepared stall the day before the freshers fair this 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. The image parodied the Sistine Chapel painting of God poking Adam. The initial justification was that the posters show Adam’s genitals but when Cloe Ansari, Southbank Atheists President, offered to censor them, they then said the problem was religious offence, because the image was based on religious art. The next day their stall had been replaced with that of another society.
AHS President Rory Fenton said, “This is beyond parody and it is not the first time one of our groups have had similar problems with Southbank University, who were last year told not to criticise religion. We are very concerned by the tendency to censor our member societies for fear of offending religious sensitivities by overly zealous union representatives. Universities need again to be reminded to recognise our members’ right to free speech: the same rights that also ensure freedom of expression for religious students, adherents to the Flying Spaghetti Monster included. Universities must recognise that their duty is to their students, not their students’ beliefs”
Southbank University Atheist Society President Cloe Ansari said, “I felt harassed and intimidated – it was not aimed at protecting other students from harm, but rather an attempt to sideline and restrict our rights; perhaps perceived as the easier option rather than standing up to the (much bigger than us) “religious societies”. Rather than included, we have been made to feel as an unwelcome minority of secularists”