BY Ryan McDougall | December 7 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Free speech fears on campus after pro-life ban

Students have expressed their fears for the future of Catholic viewpoints on Scottish campuses, after two universities clamped down on pro-life groups.

It was recently announced that the Aberdeen University Student Association (AUSA) had prevented the pro-life group, Aberdeen Life Ethics Society, from affiliating, meaning the group will be unable to access funding for events.

The University of Glasgow’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) also rejected plans for Glasgow Students for Life to become a registered society, meaning they too will not have access to financial backing, and will be denied the use of meeting rooms, advertising events, or stalls at events.


‘Crosses a line’

AUSA’s said their reason for blocking the pro-life group is due to their current policy, which backs ‘free, safe and legal access to abortion.’

Glasgow University’s SRC have said their pro-life student group ‘crosses a line’ by campaigning against abortion, adding that its aims ‘do not align with the ethos of the SRC and its values.’

The universities’ stance has gained widespread criticism from pro-life student organisations across Scotland and the wider UK, and some believe it could lead to a larger suppression of pro-life and Catholic viewpoints.



Alex Mason, a representative of Aberdeen Life Ethics Society, said: “We were banned because of our stance against abortion.

“Naturally, our opposition is rooted in philosophy and theology, as are all ideological beliefs.

“As such, this ban amounts to little more than an ideological litmus test meant to enforce adherence to majority groupthink on abortion.

“AUSA’s willingness to censor lawful opinions should be alarming to anyone who still believes universities should foster civil debate over society’s most controversial issues.

“Today, AUSA fights to silence those opposed to abortion, but who’s to say what opinion they may deem acceptable tomorrow? Political correctness is a fickle mistress.”


Legal matter

Glasgow Students for Life also cited concerns over freedom of speech.

The group have decided to submit a legal complaint to the SRC, stating that they have violated the Equality Act- 2010 for discriminating against them based on their personal beliefs.

Grace Deighan, president of Glasgow Students for life, said: “The fact that the SRC would deny a platform for open debate on such an important issue is disappointing.

“We want to see this decision overturned not just for the pro-life cause, but also to protect freedom of expression at Glasgow University.”



Restrictions on university pro-life groups have occurred before, with the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) at Dundee University being banned in 2014—a restriction that still stands.

Claire McGraw, a representative for SPUC’s Dundee branch said: “Our SPUC Dundee branch went to the Dundee freshers’ fayre for about 12 years without any bother at all—sometimes twice a year.

“We had SPUC literature and the foetal models. About four years ago the union got in touch to say that we were banned. I wrote to some of the university hierarchy but never received a reply.”

The Dundee University’s student association later claimed that SPUC’s campaigns were contrary to their constitution.



Last week, the SCO revealed a range of insults cast at a young Catholic currently studying at St Andrew’s University.

James Bundy was subject to abuse over Twitter, after sharing his pro-life views online.

This week, he said he feels there is ‘no appetite at St Andrews to disaffiliate’ their pro-life society, or to ‘clamp down on Catholic views,’ and added that although he has had the occasional person speak to him unpleasantly about his pro-life stance, the vast majority tend to respect his views and debate with him civilly.

But he added that there ‘has been a developing, but worrying, trend in recent years against freedom of speech, particularly at universities.’

“The news that the student association at both Aberdeen and Glasgow Universities have not allowed their pro-life society to affiliate is further proof of this trend; and, it is this trend that does make me concerned about the future of our Catholic universities in Scotland,” he said.

“It is important that all views, including Catholic views, are heard at university because it is only by hearing all views that we can make an informed decision.”


Church reaction

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “The creeping intolerance of university organisations to refuse to allow pro-life groups to affiliate is disappointing yet not surprising.

“University campuses that encourage robust debate and freedom of conscience have much to contribute to society and students on all sides of the abortion debate have a right to engage with these important issues without fear or favour.

“Pro-life groups however are repeatedly denied an equal chance to present evidence, arguments and ideas which challenge existing orthodoxies. Students may wish to ask their representatives to back free speech and support minority groups to have their voices heard, even those with whom they disagree.”

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