‘Spaghetti Monster’ poster banned for being offensive to religion
Secular students at a London university have had a poster featuring a 'flying spaghetti monster' banned by union officials, out of fear it would cause offence to religious students.
The South Bank Atheist Society (SBAS) poster featured the monster in place of God in a mock-up of Michelangelo's famous 'Creation of Adam' fresco from the Sistine Chapel, but it was removed from the freshers' fair last week.
"This incident is just one of a catalogue of attempts to censor our society," South Bank Atheist Society president Cloe Ansari said.
"I never expected to face such blatant censorship and fragile sensibilities at university, I thought this would be an institution where I could challenge beliefs and in turn be challenged.
"All I have seen is religious sensibilities trumping all other rights with no space for argument, challenge or reasoned debate. It is not what I expected when I came to university."
Union officials at the London South Bank University removed the posters from the society's stall overnight and then barred representatives from printing off more, citing the visibility of Adam's genitals as offensive.
But when society members offered to blur out the genitals, they were told the problem with the poster concerned religious offence.
The stall was removed by the student union authorities the next day.
It is just the latest controversy over the sometimes draconian measures adopted by university authorities against secular society members.
The London School of Economics (LSE) recently apologised to Chris Moos and Abhishek Phandis, representatives of the student Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, who wore T-shirts showing the popular 'Jesus and Mo' cartoon at their freshers' fair last year.
The pair were told to cover their t-shirts or face removal from the fair.
The 'Jesus and Mo' row was later mentioned on an episode of the BBC's Big Question, prompting Muslim Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz to tweet the image.
He later received death threats and a concerted campaign to have him dropped as a Lib Dem candidate in the 2015 general election.
Universities UK recently withdrew guidance suggesting student unions segregate male and female students if it is requested by visiting religious speakers.
The guidance triggered uproar online and among women's rights groups. A review is currently being undertaken.
"This silliness is unfortunately part of an on-going trend," British Humanist Society Andrew Copson said.
"In the last few years we have seen our affiliated societies in campus after campus subjected to petty censorship in the name of 'offence' – often even when no offence has been caused or taken.
"Hypersensitive union officials are totally needlessly harassing students whose only desire is to get on and run totally legitimate social and political societies."
Barbara Ahland, president of the London South Bank Students’ Union, said: "The Students Union has been made aware of an alleged incident that took place at the Refreshers’ Fayre last week. We are taking the allegation very seriously and an investigation is taking place."
The flying spaghetti monster is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a parody religion often used by atheists to critique intelligent design theory.