Weekly news round-up

Welcome to the FSU’s weekly newsletter, our round-up of the free speech news of the week. As with all our work, this newsletter depends on the support of our members and donors, so if you’re not already a paying member please sign up today or encourage a friend to join and help turn the tide against cancel culture. You can share our newsletters on social media with the buttons at the bottom of this email (although not if you’re reading this on a desktop). If someone has shared this newsletter with you and you’d like to join the FSU, you can find our website here.

The FSU is hiring!

The FSU is currently hiring for two new roles.

We’re looking for an Events and Mactaggart Programme Assistant. The successful candidate will engage with hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds and have plenty of opportunities to contribute ideas to the development of FSU Events and the Ian Mactaggart Programme, which is administered by the FSU and provides grants to individuals, societies and other groups that wish to provide opportunities for debate, open discussion and intellectual exploration. Applications close at midnight on Friday 30th June. You can find out more here.

We’re also looking for a Paralegal. The successful candidate will play a key role in free speech disputes taking place in workplaces, universities, professional associations, voluntary organisations, and the courts. Applicants should send a CV and introductory letter to [email protected] by Friday 7th July. Full details are available here.

Sharron Davies MBE book launch – book now!

Of all the issues thrown up by the rise of gender ideology, safety and fairness in women’s sport is probably the one that has grabbed most mainstream attention. And yet, too often the debate has been shut down, with those raising questions accused of ‘transphobia’.

One of the most stalwart defenders of the integrity of women’s sports is the British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies MBE, and the FSU is delighted to be hosting the launch for her new book on this important subject, Unfair Play: The Battle for Women’s Sport, in London on Wednesday 5th July!

With less than a week to go until the big day, we’ve only got a few in-person tickets left now – FSU members can snaffle them at a discount price by clicking here. If you can’t join us in London for the in-person book launch next Wednesday, then not to worry. Members who prefer to watch the event online can register here, while non-FSU members who want to watch online can pay £5 to register here.

We’ve brought together a superb panel to discuss the issues with Sharron, including Dr Emma Hilton, the award-winning development biologist who has advised various sporting bodies on transgender policy, including World Rugby, as well as Cathy Devine, a researcher who has published widely in the areas of sport policy, equality and human rights for girls and women.

In the chair will be the FSU’s Education and Events Director Dr Jan Macvarish.

There will be an audience Q&A and plenty of time to socialise afterwards over a complimentary glass of wine, courtesy of Swift Press. The book will also be on sale on the night and Sharron will be signing copies.

Gillian Philip case – show your support here!

FSU member Gillian Philip continues to fight for a woman’s right to state biological facts without fear of losing her job.

Gillian brought an Employment Tribunal claim against publishers Working Partners and HarperCollins, arguing that she was unlawfully discriminated against when her contract to write children’s books was terminated because of her gender critical beliefs.

A preliminary hearing was held to determine whether Gillian’s claim had been filed in time and whether she had rights under the Equality Act 2010 as a worker or employee of Working Partners.

The judge at the Employment Tribunal described Gillian’s situation as unique. (The judgement can be found here.) Gillian won on the trickiest aspect of her case, delay in bringing a claim. The judge found that it was just and equitable to allow her case to be pleaded after the time limit because in the immediate aftermath of her sacking by Working Partners she was depressed following the death of her husband.

However, although Gillian won on the time question, she lost on the worker status question and so she is now appealing that part of the judgement to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

In launching her appeal, Gillian will once again need your help. You can find out more about the case and pledge your support here.

FSU Speakeasies – tickets now available!

If you can get to Edinburgh on Wednesday 19th July, do please join us for our Summer Speakeasy on a particularly timely subject: ‘Can the Arts Survive and Thrive in Scotland?’ Our guest speakers – poet Jenny Lindsay, actress Kirstin McLean and author Ewan Morrison – will take us through the free speech issues faced by artists, writers and performers north of the border, and discuss how we can stand up for the right of audiences to judge for themselves. Get your tickets here.

On 20th July, we’ll be in Manchester with what looks set to be a fascinating event entitled ‘Free Speech: A Radical History’ which will focus on the city’s historic political struggles. We’ve invited two local historians – Michael Herbert of Red Flag Walks and Jonathan Schofield, tour guide and editor of Manchester Confidential – to share their knowledge and they’ll be joined by historian of US political history, Dr Cheryl Hudson. Tickets are available here.

And why not come and hear FSU member and former teacher, Ben Dybowski, in conversation with local group Free Speech Wales and West in Cardiff on 13th July. Mr Dybowski, who has an unblemished 20-year career in the professionwas sacked from a school for sharing his Christian beliefs at a staff-only diversity and inclusion training seminar run by Diverse Cymru, an organisation that trains teachers on ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘trans, gender identity and gender expression awareness’. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday about his case, he said he had never discussed his views with pupils and was always respectful of those with different opinions. His dismissal was, he added, “an attack on Christianity” and “an affront to freedom of speech and freedom of thought”.

Tickets are available here. There will, of course, be plenty of time for discussion and for socialising with fellow free speech supporters. Doors open 6.45pm, speaker and discussion starts at 7.30pm.

Hollywood celebrities urge Big Tech to censor gender critical “extremists”

Over 200 celebrities in film, music and other industries have signed an open letter urging Big Tech to censor perfectly lawful speech regarding transgender issues, including alleged “disinformation”, “hate” and “lies” around cross-sex medical interventions for children such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, which the letter claims are “medically necessary” (Daily Caller, Fox, Mail).

Figures such as Alyssa Milano, Ariana Grande, Jamie Lee Curtis, Demi Lovato and many more signed the letter arranged by GLAAD (formerly Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which they sent to the CEOs of Meta, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter.

Appealing to an entirely imaginary consensus in favour of the view that people are entitled to compel others to use their preferred gender pronouns, the signatories take issue with “online extremists” who “misgender” (i.e., refer to a person by their biological sex rather than their preferred gender) and “deadname” (i.e., call a person by their birth name rather than their preferred name).

“Targeted misgendering and deadnaming of trans and nonbinary people,” they explain, “is a widespread mode of hate speech across all platforms, utilized to bully and harass prominent public figures while simultaneously expressing hatred and contempt.”

The inevitable endpoint to this casual conflation of the robust expression of gender critical beliefs with “hate speech” was to be found in Mexico this week, where former Congressman Rodrigo Ivan Cortes was convicted of “gender-based political violence”, in addition to “digital, symbolic, psychological, and sexual violence”, for using masculine references online with regard to transgender female Congressional representative Salma Luevano (Christian Post). Oddly, the celebrities don’t mention Mr Cortes’s case – although it’s certainly true that emotional safetyism tends not to sound quite so progressive or conducive to ticket sales when it descends into appeals to imprison people for thoughtcrimes.

Switching topic, the luvvies’ round-robin continues with an appeal to social media companies to combat “disinformation” surrounding trans issues, particularly cross-sex medical interventions for children, which the letter refers to as “medically necessary” healthcare.

Having made the dubious claim that the science is settled regarding the efficacy of cross-sex medical interventions to treat gender dysphoria, the letter goes on to demand that platforms treat such content in the same way as COVID-19 disinformation.

The letter’s “medically necessary” puberty blockers are, in fact, a particularly controversial form of cross-sex medical intervention.

While some clinicians say they buy time for children to decide whether they want to change sex by halting their physical development, others point out that they can reduce bone density (at least in the short term) and effectively “lock in” children on the path to becoming transgender (Telegraph). There is a growing body of research suggesting they also cause other irreversible harms (Spiked).

Aidan Kelly, a clinician at the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) has previously told the Guardian that staff at the service had doubts about whether the children they were treating with these methods were in fact transgender or should instead have been receiving help for other conditions including autism. Like others who have worked at the clinic, he said those concerns “weren’t being heard” by fellow clinicians.

If you didn’t know better, you’d almost suspect that these progressive, pure-as-the-driven-snow celebrities were peddling… disinformation.

Latest episode of the FSU’s podcast is out now!

The latest episode of the FSU’s weekly podcast, That’s Debatable!, is out now! This week, hosts Tom and Ben discuss recent events at Rye College and the NSPCC, which demonstrate all too clearly that the UK’s free speech woes are affecting the lives of the most impressionable members of society, our children. From there, they go on to discuss how we’ve reached this place and why it is proving so hard to dislodge the controversial philosophies behind Stonewall, Mermaids, and other activist organisations.

Click here to listen to ‘Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone’ in full – and for free!

Ernest Hemingway novels given trigger warning by publisher Penguin

The publisher Penguin’s relentless campaign to boost sales figures for second hand bookshops up and down the country continues apace.

Having recently tweaked PG Wodehouse’s comic novels to bring them into line with progressive sensibilities (LBC), and, via children’s imprint Puffin, having done the same thing to Roald Dahl’s back catalogue (Telegraph), the publisher has now slapped trigger warnings on the latest editions of classic works by Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway due to concerns about his “language”, “attitudes” and “cultural representations” (Breitbart, Daily Wire, GB News, Mail, Telegraph).

The American writer’s novels and short stories have been reissued by Penguin Random House with a new cautionary note.

A disclaimer printed in the latest edition of his 1926 debut novel The Sun Also Rises – considered to be one of the classics of the 20th century – primly states that, although the publishers decided not to censor the book, this “is not intended as an endorsement of cultural representations or language contained herein”. Hemingway’s collection of short stories, Men Without Women, now carries an almost identical warning.

Penguin have not revealed the exact proportion of profit from sales of these reissues that will now be donated to charity, although given their obvious distaste for the worldview of the man behind the prose, one imagines it will be sizeable.

The decision to add a disclaimer to the works of the Nobel Prize-winner has raised concerns that classics of English literature are being treated like “cigarette packets” in need of health warnings.

Prof Richard Bradford, author of the 2018 Hemingway biography, The Man Who Wasn’t There, said: “The publisher’s comments would be hilarious, were they not also alarming. Scrutinise any novel or poem written at any time, and search for a passage that could create unease for persons who are obsessed with themselves, and you’ll find one.

“Publishers and the literary establishment as a whole,” Prof Bradford added, “now seem to be informed by a blend of stupidity and bullying regarding what readers should be allowed to think.”

How would the notoriously hard-drinking, hot-tempered novelist himself have reacted to this news? We can perhaps take an educated guess.

“I will make my own bloody decisions as to what I write and what I do not write,” he raged to his British publisher having learnt that the language to the 1932 English edition of his novel Death in the Afternoon had been cleaned up and sanitised prior to publication.

“If any excisions or changes have to be made it is I who will make them if the book is not to be bollixed up,” he continued, adding: “You are not my vicar, [and] I will be damned if I have any vicar pruning my books to please the circulating libraries.”

Kemi Badenoch calls for snap inspection of school in gender identity row

Kemi Badenoch has asked Ofsted to inspect Rye College in East Sussex after a teacher was recorded telling a 13-year-old girl she was “despicable” for questioning the tenets of gender identity theory, and expressing her belief that there are only two biological sexes, male and female (Mail, Sky News, Telegraph). We’ve been taking a particularly close interest in this case because the girl’s mother, whom we’re assisting, is a member of the Free Speech Union

In her letter to Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, the Minister for Women and Equalities points out that UK courts have ruled that gender critical beliefs – i.e., that sex is biological and immutable – are classed as worthy of respect in a democratic society and ‘protected’. The fact that the teacher asserted the pupils’ beliefs were “despicable”, and that they were no longer welcome at the school if they continued to express the view that only boys and girls exist was, in Ms Badenoch’s view, not consistent with the 2010 Equality Act’s requirements upon schools to promote respect for the different protected characteristics as defined in law.

The minister went on to say that in teaching contested political beliefs as fact, including that there are “lots of genders” or that gender is not linked to the parts that you were born with, the teacher may also have breached political impartiality requirements as set out in Articles 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996.

She added: “I am confident that you will carefully consider my request for an inspection, and trust that you will see the importance, both for this school and the integrity of the school system more broadly, in carrying one out.”

The intervention comes after Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, ordered officials to visit the school and assess if pupils’ safety had been put at risk (GB News).

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case.

Last year, a female sixth-form student was hounded out of her school after questioning transgender ideology. Having argued that biological gender is real during a discussion with a member of the House of Lords, she was harassed by 60 fellow pupils who shouted, screamed, swore and spat at her when she returned to the sixth form. She left the school two months later (Mail).

Another teen who argued with his teacher that there are only two genders was also recently reprimanded, suspended and eventually barred from returning to the school.

As Gareth Sturdy points out for Spiked, the most disturbing aspect of the incidents in question isn’t necessarily the presence of gender identity in classrooms, but the fact that teachers are refusing to countenance any discussion, debate or criticism of a theory that is, at best, what sociologists would describe as ‘essentially contested’.

That’s precisely why the FSU wants ‘free speech’ to be added to the list of British values that schools are required by law to “actively promote”, and which Ofsted inspectors consider how a school is promoting when judging the effectiveness of an institution’s leadership and management. The hope is that teachers would then need to undertake training on integrating into pedagogic practice the importance of lawful free speech, freedom of expression and viewpoint diversity.

Nor would that ‘training’ need to be particularly sophisticated. Close exegetical analyses of Milton’s Areopagitica in the original early modern English would be nice, of course. But a teacher who can describe a 13-year-old pupil’s protected belief as “despicable”, that pupil’s mother’s protected belief as “sad”, and blithely present a politically contentious theory with no basis in biological fact as something beyond dispute, should probably first be started on the Forstater, Bailey and Mackereth employment tribunal rulings.

Best wishes,

Freddie Attenborough

Communications Officer.