Sacrilege! London’s South Bank University Bans Student Posters Honoring the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Last week, jittery representatives of the students’ union at London’s South Bank University removed atheist posters featuring the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) — and initially lied about the reason, according to the British website politics.co.uk.

The posters had been put up at a Freshers’ Fair (a new-student orientation event) by a secular student group, the South Bank Atheist Society.

Union officials at the London South Bank University removed the posters from the society’s stall overnight and then barred representatives from printing off more, citing the visibility of Adam’s genitals as offensive.

Right. Because we all know that Leonardo da Vinci Michelangelo, whose depiction of Adam (taken from his Sistine Chapel masterpiece) we’re talking about here, was an infamous pornographer who gave Adam a massive erection (topped only by the holy boner of Jesus).

Oh, wait.

The students promptly called the officials’ bluff, offering to blur or cover up Adam’s limp and not-very-noodly appendage, and were then told that, actually, the problem with the poster was that (wait for it) it might be offensive to the religious.

Said South Bank Atheist Society president Cloe Ansari,

“This incident is just one of a catalogue of attempts to censor our society. I never expected to face such blatant censorship and fragile sensibilities at university. I thought this would be an institution where I could challenge beliefs and in turn be challenged. All I have seen is religious sensibilities trumping all other rights with no space for argument, challenge or reasoned debate.”

Recently, England repeatedly made international headlines because of censorship decisions regarding religion. Last fall, secular students at the London School of Economics were told they were not allowed to wear Jesus and Mo T-shirts at an LSE Freshers’ Fair (the school has since apologized, more or less). Two weeks ago, Channel 4 reported on another Jesus and Mo controversy, and decided that it would show just one innocuous panel from the comic strip — but only after after the station’s graphics department placed a large black blob over the Mohammed character.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Rory Fenton, president of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies in the UK and Ireland, says he’s hardly surprised by the latest dustup:

South Bank’s Atheist Society are no stranger to hostility from their students’ union. When they were formed last year and affiliated to their union, they were accepted only on the condition that they didn’t criticize religion or hold debates with religious groups, which is as absurd as telling the Socialist Society to steer clear of critiquing capitalism. Despite hopes that a new academic year would bring a more reasonable union committee, the group has faced constant opposition.

Since the start of their first term, they have seen their posters torn down and stamped on the day they are put up, including posters simply showing Brian Griffin, Family Guy‘s atheist talking dog. I attended a meeting last term at which their union accused them of picking on Christians for a poster stating, “We may not be able to turn water into wine but we do like wine, join us in the bar next Thursday.”

As for the confiscation of the FSM posters,

It’s hard to hear this and not laugh, but this is the funny tip of a very serious iceberg — universities are increasingly turning to silencing atheist and Humanist students for fear of upsetting religious sensibilities. In banning images of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, we are seeing simply the logical conclusion of cowardice.

 

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.


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