Letter to Dr James Mannion about Rethinking Education’s decision to no-platform Dr Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert

I wrote to Dr James Mannion, the CEO of Rethinking Education, about his decision to no-platform Dr Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert, the Director of Don’t Divide Us, from a one-day education conference because some of the other speakers and delegates had objected that her presence would make them feel ‘unsafe’. I asked him to apologise to Dr Sehgal-Cuthbert and arrange for her to speak at a future event, which he duly did the following day.

Letter to Professor Sir Malcolm Evans About Regent’s Park College’s Trans Inclusion Statement

The Free Speech Union has written to Professor Sir Malcolm Evans, Master of Regent’s Park College, about the College’s Trans Inclusion Statement, which is based on a misunderstanding of the Equality Act 2010. The Statement stipulates that any “unlawful discriminatory behaviour, including transphobic harassment or bullying by individuals or groups, will be dealt with under the College’s Policy on Harassment and Bullying and within the relevant legislation, the Equality Act 2010”. Examples of “harassment” supposedly prohibited by the Equality Act include “making jokes about trans people or their trans status” and “consistently using incorrect titles or pronouns or names to refer to a trans person (‘deadnaming’)”. But as we point out in our letter, the Equality Act imposes a duty on employers to protect their employees from harassment by other employees, not third parties — and for the purposes of the Equality Act, students are third parties. Consequently, the Equality Act doesn’t prohibit students from making jokes about trans people or using their non-preferred pronouns. The Times has covered the story here.

Below you can read our original letter and the reply we received from Professor Sir Malcolm Evans.

Letter to the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police about the arrest of an autistic teenage girl for ‘homophobic hate speech’

The Free Speech Union has written to the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police to complain about the arrest of a 16 year-old autistic girl who compared a Women Police Officer to her ‘lesbian nana’. She was told she was being arrested for ‘homophobic hate speech’, but we don’t think her speech meets the criminal offence threshold under the Public Order Act 2006. We also point out that if the girl made the remark to the WPC when they were both in the girl’s home, then the domestic dwelling exemption applies – you cannot be charged with a Public Order offence for saying something to another person in the privacy of your own home. We asked West Yorkshire Police to make it clear that no further action would be taken against the girl and to assure us that a non-crime hate incident would not be recorded against her name in any databases. Shortly after receiving the letter, West Yorkshire Police announced no further action would be taken against the girl.

Letter to the CEO of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Transitioning at Work and Gender Diversity Policy

In the course of our work we come across some pretty egregious equity, diversity and inclusion policies, but the South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s ‘Transitioning at Work and Gender Diversity Policy’ is the worst yet. This NHS Trust is effectively telling female Muslim employees that if they refuse to use – or express any concerns about using – toilets or showers with trans-identifying biological males they will face disciplinary action. That is a clear breach of the Equality Act and any employee sacked by this Trust for failing to comply with the more draconian aspects of this policy, whether a person of faith or someone with gender critical beliefs, would have an open-and-shut case for compensation in the Employment Tribunal.

Letter to the Oxford University Proctors about OUSU’s vote to deny the Oxford Union a slot at freshers’ fair in October

We’ve written to the Proctors of Oxford University, who are responsible for student discipline, to complain about the decision by Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) to ban the Oxford Union from having a stall at the next Freshers’ Fair, seemingly in response to the Union’s refusal to no-platform Kathleen Stock. Kathleen is due to give a talk at the Union on 31st May and the Union has come under enormous pressure to cancel the talk, including from OUSU’s LGBTQ+ officer. We believe OUSU’s decision is a breach of the University’s Free Speech Policy, as well as its Code of Practice on Meetings and Events, and are asking the Proctors to investigate OUSU‘s officers under the University’s Code of Discipline.

Letter urging St John’s College to reverse its decision to cancel a film screening over threatened student protests

We’ve written to St John’s College and the University of Cambridge asking for the urgent reinstatement of a film screening organised by student Charlie Bentley-Astor which the College has cancelled. She intended to show the film Birthgap – Childless World with director Stephen Shaw, but student activists threatened protests – apparently for the ludicrous reason that Shaw had appeared on Jordan Peterson’s podcast. The College had already imposed prohibitive security costs, which we had offered to pay, before it caved in to the demands of the protesters and axed the screening. The decision was criticised in the House of Lords as the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill completed its passage through Parliament.

The Free Speech Union responds to the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries’ Consultation on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

We’ve responded to the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) consultation on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI).  Like many other professional and supervisory bodies, the IFoA is proposing to update its Code of Conduct to (among other changes) require its members to encourage DEI. We are concerned this will result in further suppression of members’ free speech and expression, especially as the IFoA’s code of conduct has very broad application, including across parts of individual members’ personal lives. In our response, we highlight how the existing IFoA Code already contains extensive DEI provisions. If these new proposals were to be implemented, we fear the IFoA would be adopting an approach to DEI that risks scope creep from unclear or contentious definitions, and which itself lacks a diversity of views. Our experience at the FSU is that these kinds of DEI requirements lead to members being put through unnecessary and stressful disciplinary procedures.

Letter to the CEO of the Charity Commission asking her to open an investigation into the mosque at the centre of recent events in Wakefield

We’ve written to Helen Stephenson, the CEO of the Charity Commission, asking her to open an investigation into Jamia Masjid Swafia. This is the mosque in Wakefield where the mother of a 14 year-old autistic boy accused of mistreating a copy of the Quran – he accidentally dropped it – sat on a panel, head covered by a veil, while the Imam warned that the Muslim community wouldn’t tolerate any disrespect shown to the Quran and if necessary would defend its honour with their lives. We think his remarks constitute a breach of one of the mosque’s charitable objects, namely to “promoting good community relations and cohesion between Muslims and non-Muslims”.

Letter to West Yorkshire Police about children having ‘non-crime hate incidents’ being recorded against their names at Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield

We’ve written to Inspector Andy Thornton, the police officer leading the investigation into the events at Kettlethorpe High School involving a 14 year-old autistic boy bringing a copy of the Quran into the school. We have complained about the fact that the episode is being treated as a ‘hate incident’ by West Yorkshire Police. We’ve asked Thornton to assure us that the four boys at the centre of the story have not had ‘non-crime hate incidents’ recorded against their names and, if they have, to remove them immediately. As the school said, there’s no evidence of any malicious intent and damaging a book that belongs to you, even if it is the Quran, should not be treated as a ‘hate incident’.

Letter to CEO of ITV Urging Her Not to Sack Jeremy Clarkson

We’ve written to Dame Carolyn McCall, the CEO of ITV, urging her not to fire Jeremy Clarkson as host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Sacking Clarkson would be cancel culture at its most brutal, destroying a person’s livelihood because they’ve said something perfectly lawful, but which someone who thinks of themselves as a ‘victim’ finds offensive.

Clarkson has apologised for any offence he caused and that should be enough. As a society, we believe in the possibility of redemption for hardened criminals. Why can’t we extend the same charity to someone whose only crime is to have said something offensive?