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Letter concerning Nottingham University’s decision not to recognise Father David Palmer’s appointment as Catholic Chaplain.

We have written to Professor Shearer West, the Vice-Chancellor and President of Nottingham University, asking her to reconsider the decision not to recognise the appointment of Father David Palmer as the University’s Catholic chaplain. Nottingham has 12 other chaplains of different faiths, all of whom are officially recognised, but the University has refused to grant the same honour to Father David because it objects to his opposition to abortion and euthanasia. Since that opposition is rooted in his Catholic faith, we think this constitutes unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Below, you can see our original letter and the email reply we received from Kirsteen Coupar, Interim Student and Campus Life Director, Nottingham University on 1st October 2021.

Letter to the Chair of the Cambridge Classics Faculty raising concerns about its anti-racist Action Plan

Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Cambridge University Classics Faculty intends to include notices beneath plaster busts of ancient figures in the local archaeology museum explaining that the whiteness of the casts shouldn’t be taken to mean that the population of Athens and Rome was exclusive white. This bizarre decision is part of the Faculty’s anti-racist ‘Action Plan’ and, on reviewing it, we discovered that other aspects are more sinister and potentially unlawful. You can read our letter to Professor Osborne, the Chair of the Faculty, raising these concerns below.

Letter to Wigan Council concerning one of our members, Maureen O’Bern

Maureen O’Bern was employed by Wigan Council as a librarian for 34 years. But when she objected to the involvement of a Chinese state-owned firm in a major new project, because of China’s human rights record, she was suspended and then sacked. She is being assisted by the Workers of England Union and the Free Speech Union.

Letter to Kim Leadbeater MP concerning a teacher in her constituency of Batley and Spen.

Earlier this month, we wrote to Kim Leadbeater, the newly-elected MP for Batley and Spen, to ask her what steps she’d taken to help the teacher at Batley Grammar School who is currently in hiding with his family following threats to his life after he showed some of his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. She was now replied, so we’re publishing both letters (with her permission). In her reply, the MP says she will support the teacher if he wants to return to work, which we very much welcome.

Below, you can see our original letter and the reply we received from Kim Leadbeater MP on 10th August 2021.

Letter to Commissioner Cressida Dick CBE concerning Hatun Tash

We are very concerned about the safety of the FSU member and Christian preacher Hatun Tash, who was slashed in the face with a knife at Speakers’ Corner last month. We first wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick about Ms Tash on 2 June, following her arrest for breach of the peace, and we have written to her again, urging the Metropolitan Police to protect Ms Tash’s rights to life, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. Below, you can see our original letter, the replies we received, as well as our most recent letter.

Letter to Sir Keir Starmer on behalf of one of our members – Ms Rebekah Wershbale

We have written to Sir Keir Starmer asking him to intervene after a member of ours discovered she is being used in a Labour Party training course as an example of a ‘transphobe’. Two years ago, Rebeka Wershbale was banned from a pub in Macclesfield for wearing a t-shirt that said: ‘Woman: adult human female.’ This is how the Oxford Dictionary of English defines “woman”, but it is now thought to be ‘trans exclusionary’ by woke activists since it implies that only biological females are women. A picture of Rebekah wearing the t-shirt appears on a slide in a Labour Party training course on how to avoid ‘casual transphobia’.

Toby Young, the FSU’s General Secretary, said: “I was genuinely shocked to discover one of our members is being publicly shamed as a ‘transphobe’ in official Labour Party training materials simply for wearing a t-shirt saying, ‘Woman: adult human female.’ That’s the Oxford Dictionary of English‘s definition and, I imagine, the same definition that the vast majority of Labour Party members use.

“Not only is this a grotesque attack on Rebekah Wershbale, it is discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010, which was passed by the last Labour Government. That Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of their protected characteristics, which include their philosophical beliefs. And we know from a recent ruling in the Employment Appeals Tribunal that the beliefs of gender critical feminists like Ms Wershbale are protected by law.

“We have written to Keir Starmer asking him to make sure these training materials aren’t used again, investigate how Ms Wershbale’s name and photograph came to be used in this way and apologise to her. We’ve also asked him to clarify what the Labour Party’s attitude is to gender critical beliefs. The Party’s members need to know whether this demonisation of Ms Wershbale for defining a woman as an adult human female is a regrettable error or official Party policy.”

Rebekah Wershbale said: “When the seriousness of the situation dawned on me I was horrified. To be singled-out as an example of a transphobic bully by someone I’d never even met or even interacted with was very disturbing, especially given that they used my name and photo. We know very well what happens to women in those crosshairs. We receive actual, real threats of violence and threats to our livelihood. Not just the vague threats of potential ‘misgendering’ or dogwhistling we’re accused of. How many people have gone through this course and seen my name and photo as an example of ‘transphobia’?

“My question is, who is being bullied here? I had no idea my name and image were being used in this way. Accusations of ‘transphobia’ have turned women’s lives upside down. I’m alarmed that this has been greenlit by the Labour Party, knowing what the potential backlash is for women in my position who refuse to play the game of pretend, and who stand up for women’s rights and biological reality.”

Letter concerning the OUSU project to set up a “Student Consultancy of Sensitivity Readers”.

We have written to Oxford University Student Union about their decision to establish a ‘sensitivity reader’ service for student newspapers at the University. While much press attention has focused on the Cherwell, the older of Oxford’s student newspapers, we are more concerned about the Oxford Student. The publisher of the Oxford Student is owned outright by OUSU, and run by senior union officers. 

Although the proposed service will be voluntary, it is hard to see how the Oxford Student could use it without being seen to compromise its editorial independence. This strikes us as an inappropriate decision for a newspaper proprietor to make, and one that puts its title in a difficult position. We suggest that proper safeguards be put in place to preserve the Oxford Student’s independence from its powerful proprietor.

Letter to IKEA About GB News

We’ve written to all the companies that have stopped advertising on GB News in response to pressure from the left-wing lobby group Stop Funding Hate. Rather than put them all on here, we’ve include the one to IKEA as an example. Initially, IKEA said it wouldn’t advertise on the new channel again, but later walked this back to saying it would make a decision in ‘due course’. We respect the right of these companies to choose who they wish to advertise with, but we don’t think they should base those decisions on misinformation disseminated by a group of online activists with a political agenda.

Letter to the University of Exeter concerning accreditation of courses in the College of Social Sciences and International Studies.

We’ve written to University of Exeter’s College of Social Sciences and International Studies to warn them that their process for approving courses leaves them open to legal challenge. Academics wishing to propose new or amended modules must demonstrate how their course broadens horizons by ‘moving away from a white, Eurocentric curriculum.’ We believe this is an impermissible restriction on academic freedom. Academics should be free to determine for themselves how the horizons of knowledge can be broadened – whether that means embracing white Eurocentrism, rejecting it, or ignoring it entirely.

The College’s policy goes against Exeter’s previous good work in concluding an ‘Agreement on academic freedom’ in 2009. The agreement, much to Exeter’s credit, protects academics’ right to ‘teach without any interference’, prohibits attempts to force them ‘to instruct against their own best knowledge and conscience’, and guarantees them a ‘significant role in determining the curriculum.’ 

Our letter puts the University on notice that commitments to protect academic freedom have legal force, and should be honoured. We hope the College will reconsider its policy, before any academic falling foul of it brings a claim.

UPDATE

The University replied to us as follows:

We accept these are complex areas and will continue to work with academic staff to ensure their right to academic freedom is protected in line with the University’s academic freedom agreement and our relevant articles of governance. This will include undertaking a full review of our academic freedom agreement during the 2021-22 Academic Year to ensure that it reflects the expectations of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.

We have responded with a freedom of information request to uncover further details about how the policy came about and how it is being implemented.

Read below the full text of our letter to Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter.

Letter to Russell Group Universities About Reporting Websites

We’ve written to the CEO of the Russell Group, as well as the Vice-Chancellors of all 24 Russell Group universities, advising them that the reporting schemes they’ve set up to enable students and staff to make complaints – about ‘micro-aggressions’, for instance – do not take account of their legal duty to uphold free speech and may render them vulnerable to legal challenge, particularly after the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill has become law. You can read more about these websites in the MailOnline.

UPDATE: Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group has responded. You can read the full text of his letter below.
UPDATE: We have replied to Dr Tim Bradshaw’s response – see below for details.