Union apologises for censoring atheist ‘Spaghetti Monster’ poster
London Southbank University student union has unreservedly apologised after staff censored an atheist society's 'Flying Spaghetti Monster' poster.
There was outrage among secular and free speech groups when it emerged officials had removed the posters during a freshers' fair and told students they could not reprint it because it could cause religious offence.
"It is not currently nor has it ever been the union policy to censor student groups or the materials they produce and as such this was not an authorised act and we have now ensured that staff know that they should not do this," the student union said in a statement.
"In recognising the distress caused to the society by our actions we have met with and apologised to The Atheist Society president and vice president.
"The Atheist Society are as welcome at the students' union as any group or society and we completely respect and support their right to freedom of expression and free speech."
The posters were a mock-up of Michelangelo's famous 'Creation of Adam' fresco from the Sistine Chapel but with the character of God replaced with the satirical deity the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’, which is typically used to parody intelligent design theory.
The controversy comes after the London School of Economics (LSE) was forced to apologise to students Chris Moos and Abhishek Phandis, 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.
"Events have followed the same pattern as those involving our affiliate at the LSE where censorship of a cartoon of Mohammed was followed by an apology and admission that the censorship had been unjustified," British Humanist Association chief executive Andrew Copson said.
"Hopefully these cases will serve as an example to overly officious wannabe censors at other institutions.'
President of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Students Societies Rory Fenton said he would be taking the matter up at a national level.
"Again and again our members are censored and then apologised to," he said.
"Apologies are all very well but it would be better if these incidents never occurred. The appropriate response to being offended is to engage in debate, not censorship.
"We will be looking for ways to pursue this issue further with national student bodies, national university bodies and public bodies – including the government – to seek whatever amendments to law and policy are essential to prevent this sort of interference with our members' legitimate activities."