The Mail on Sunday ran two stories yesterday based on a letter we’ve written to Liz Truss in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities. In the letter, we’ve asked her to do something about the aggressive promotion of social justice ideology in quangos and other state bodies, and the punishment of employees who push back, particularly those unwise enough to make jokes about it. The Government has been reasonably good at curbing the worst excesses of woke gobbledegook in Whitehall, but has done nothing about it in these arms-length bodies, according to several Free Speech Union members who have reached out to us for help. One case we’ve highlighted involves a National Highways official and member of the FSU who has been gagged by his employer for daring to suggest that maintaining the roads mattered more than promoting World Hijab Day. You can read the articles in the Mail on Sunday here and here.
FSU hands dossier to Department for Education about politically biased teaching in schools
The FSU has written to Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education, and handed a dossier to the Department for Education documenting numerous examples of politically biased teaching in schools. The dossier, which is based on information passed to us by our members, names 15 different schools where children are being taught a variety of politically contentious things, from the claim that all white people are privileged to the assertion that the police are systemically racist. We shared the dossier with the Sunday Telegraph, who ran a story on it yesterday, and MailOnline then followed up with more details.
We have decided not to publish the letter or the dossier on our website to protect the identities of our members and we were careful to secure their permission before they or their children’s schools were named in the articles. But here is an extract from the letter I wrote to Nadhim Zahawi, suggesting some things the Department could do to stop schools and teachers ignoring their legal duty not to politically indoctrinate children. To put these comments in context, you should know that the Department is preparing to issue new guidance next year about the need for schools to be impartial when teaching children about politically contentious subjects.
First, could I urge you to add ‘free speech’ to the list of British values that the Department asks English schools to promote in the guidance it issued in 2014? This, I believe, would be a useful reminder to teachers and schools that there are a range of legitimate points of view when it comes to most contested political issues and they should not promote one particular set of views and denigrate all the others but, rather, encourage children to debate different viewpoints and make up their own minds. In too many schools, children are being taught what to think about contentious political issues but not how to think about them.
Second, I think the new guidance should contain a section about what parents can do if they are concerned that teachers and schools are not complying with the guidance or, indeed, not complying with the law forbidding the promotion of partisan political views. One thing that is clear from talking to the parents who have contacted the FSU is that they are at a loss as to what to do about the political indoctrination of their children. Should they complain to the headteacher? The school’s governing body? The board of directors if the school is part of a multi-academy trust? Ofsted? The Department? The ESFA? Often, they have complained to one of these bodies, only to be told that they should complain to another, whereupon they have been sent round the houses, only to end up back where they started. If your guidance is to be taken seriously by teachers and schools and reassure parents concerned about this issue, you need to put a clear enforcement mechanism in place, much like the new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill does. In the absence of that, the problem is bound to persist.
Student leaks bizarre list of words banned at Aston University
We were contacted by a student at Aston University who was concerned about a guide given to all first year sociology students that contained a list of banned words that students are forbidden to use. It included such supposedly problematic terms as “mankind”, “native”, “British” and “mentally ill” – and the guide said that other terms were likely to be added. Tellingly, the student did not want to be identified and wrote to us anonymously.
The guide also made clear that issues like race were only to be viewed through a fixed ideological lens, and defined “black” people as “people who experience structural and institutional discrimination”. We wrote to the Vice-Chancellor reminding him of Aston’s duty to protect freedom of speech, a duty universities should treat seriously given that the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which we campaigned for, is likely to enter the statute book next year. We urged the Vice-Chancellor to withdraw the guide and provide an assurance that no students would be disciplined for using the words it proscribed.
Survivors of cancel culture speak out at Battle of Ideas
The FSU was out in force at the Battle of Ideas festival. Our panel discussion featured five people who’d been cancelled but fought back with our help. They told their stories to a room packed full of people who’d had enough of the pervading culture of fear and censorship.
A warm welcome to all of our new members who signed-up on the day.
We also had a stall at the inaugural conference of the LGB Alliance last month. A small demonstration by trans rights activists held a demonstration outside because the LGB Alliance is thought to be heretical for refusing to include trans people within the umbrella of the gay and lesbian rights movement. Its work has been backed by the Prime Minister.
We will be attending the SDP conference on 6 November and look forward to speaking with our members and supporters there.
Welcome to the Woke Trials previewed by the Mail on Sunday
Julie Burchill’s new book – Welcome to the Woke Trials – has been serialised in the Mail on Sunday. The book was cancelled in December last year by publisher Little, Brown because of tweets Julie had posted during a spat with Ash Sarkar. But thanks to our intervention and the help of a crack pro bono lawyer on our Legal Advisory Council, Julie was paid her entire advance in full and the rights to the book were returned to her. We then found her another publisher in the form of Paul du Quenoy at Academica Press. “I’ve been upsetting bourgeoise bed-wetters since I was 17 – now I’m 61 and nothing has changed,” Julie said. “Last time I checked, that wasn’t against the law. I am indebted to the Free Speech Union for stepping in to protect my rights.” (Ash Sarkar meanwhile appears to have belatedly acknowledged the existence of cancel culture after videos featuring her were taken down by YouTube.)
The book can be ordered here.
Last year we helped Manx Radio presenter Stu Peters after he was suspended for challenging the concept of “white privilege” in a discussion with a phone-in caller. We wrote to the Isle of Man’s Communications Commission to defend his right to free speech and the regulator found in his favour. Last month he was elected to the House of Keys for the Middle constituency – and he’s noted his support for and membership of the Free Speech Union in his parliamentary profile. Congratulations Stu.
We helped Canadian student journalist Jonathan Bradley after he was fired for his views on LGBT issues and filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The human rights complaint has now been settled to mutual satisfaction with a letter of regret.
Our support for Father David Palmer, who has now taken up his post as Chaplain at Nottingham University after initially being blocked by university authorities, has been noted by the National Catholic Register.
The vast majority of our case work never reaches the public domain and cannot be discussed. Suffice to say we’ve won some remarkable victories recently thanks to the generosity of our members and donors. You can donate to our fighting fund here.
A reminder that if you need support you can contact our dedicated case team here.
Our offer to defend Dr Priyamvada Gopal after Home Office cancel her talk
Cambridge academic Dr Priyamvada Gopal had an invitation to speak to civil servants at the Home Office rescinded after Guido Fawkes drew attention to the fact that she’d been extremely rude about Priti Patel on Twitter. After she complained about her right to free speech being breached, we offered to support her. Dr Gopal has not taken up our offer, but we’ve welcomed her acknowledgement that the free speech crisis is real and not “manufactured”, as she had previously claimed.
Help Lisa Keogh defend the right to question trans ideology
Our member Lisa Keogh was investigated for two months by Abertay University because she said only “women have vaginas”. This was deemed to be transphobic by other students, and the last months of her law degree were overshadowed by an extremely stressful investigation and the threat of her being expelled. Even though she was completely exonerated, the process was the punishment, as many of our members have remarked before. Lisa is now mounting a legal battle against Abertay, arguing that the University discriminated against her for her philosophical beliefs and breached the Equality Act. We think students and staff should be free to question prevailing transgender ideology without having to face lengthy investigations and if you agree you can donate to Lisa’s crowdfunder here.
Our protest after students made to “acknowledge personal guilt” for “unconscious bias”
Last week we wrote to Professor Sally Mapstone, the Vice-Chancellor of St Andrews University, about the compulsory diversity training that all new students are made to sit. Freshers have to provide the “correct” answers to blatantly biased quiz questions such as “Acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful starting point in overcoming unconscious bias”. We warned the Vice-Chancellor that this test amounted to compelled speech, which is prohibited by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. You can read our letter to Professor Mapstone here.
Kathleen Stock resigns – but radical trans rights activists cannot be allowed to triumph
Weekly newsletter subscribers will have seen the sad news that Professor Kathleen Stock has resigned her post at Sussex University following a prolonged campaign of intimidation and abuse. We wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University calling on him to defend Professor Stock and her rights to free speech and academic freedom. You can read our letter here. The University has offered several supportive statements to Stock throughout, but given the hostility she faced from trans activists she felt unable to return to campus. She had been advised that she might need bodyguards.
During this time her views have been misrepresented and she even had to seek a correction from the BBC (which was granted): if you want to know what she really thinks, listen to her speaking with me back in July about free speech, sex, gender and trans.
I spoke to Josephine Bartosch of the Critic about the failure of the University and College Union to defend Stock, and the reluctance of other unions to defend their members who’ve said something that doesn’t comply with the prevailing orthodoxy. I told her: “One of the original purposes of trade unions in the 19th century was to defend the speech rights of workers so they could criticise their bosses without being fired. Unfortunately, the vast majority of unions have lost sight of that in the past 25 years, with the UCU being the most egregious example. I would urge any academic concerned about their intellectual freedom to join the Free Speech Union instead. It’s much cheaper and we will actually stand up for the speech rights of our members.”
To that end, if you’re a working academic we’ve put a special offer in place whereby if you join you can claim a £10 rebate. To be eligible, you have to join for the full annual amount of £49.95 and select ‘Academic’ in the drop-down menu asking what profession you’re in. Offer ends on 20th December.
Comedy Unleashed: you’re invited
We are delighted to be hosting two comedy nights in association with Comedy Unleashed, the home of free-thinking comedy. Join us in London on Wednesday 10 November and Wednesday 15 December, when the line-ups will include Leo Kearse, Nick Dixon, Tania Edwards, Tony Law, Dominic Frisby, Mark Dolan, Vanity Von Glow and many more. The line-ups are different on each night, so feel free to come to both! We’re about to open our comedy nights up to the public, at which point they’ll sell out quickly, so if you’d like a ticket you should book now.