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Written by Student Rights on 7 October 2013 at 6pm

Atheist Society disaffiliated at University of Reading

With the LSE ‘Jesus and Mo’ t-shirts in the news at the moment, it is worth highlighting that the Atheist Society at the University of Reading is also facing Student Union opprobrium this week.

Following last year’s blasphemous pineapple fiasco, broken by Student Rights and covered as widely as the Daily Mail and Have I Got News for You, disciplinary action taken by the union saw an official warning issued to the Atheist Society.

This was accompanied by a letter asking the society to sign a statement in which it agreed to refrain from causing offence in the future, in effect removing its ability to criticise religion.

The society refused, and as a result has been disaffiliated, losing any financial support, room-booking abilities, and even its place at the Freshers’ Fair.

One senior member of the society wrote on Facebook following this news:

“RUSU [Reading University Student Union] have informed RAHS [Reading Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society] that their affiliation to the students' union is no longer recognised. I believe that the exclusion of the atheist, secularist, and humanist society from Reading University Students' Union is politically motivated, and reflects badly upon the Union.

Not only will this limit the ability of RAHS to give non-religious students the support they need at campus, it showcases a willingness on the part of the Union to pick and choose which societies it considers to be acceptable.

Reading University Muslim Society last year invited onto campus a man who is on record arguing against homosexuality in the most violent terms; Abu Usamah At-Thahabi has called for throwing gay men from mountains.

If Muslim students complained about the LGBT society, would they, like RAHS, be forced out of the Union?

Mohammed was a very important pineapple, for his treatment by RUSU revealed that they place a higher value on the beliefs of religious students than they do upon the beliefs of non-religious students.

 Just as students of all religions have the right to share their beliefs on campus, students of no religion have the same right to do so without persecution from their students' union”.

Incredibly, a statement released to Student Rights by the University of Reading following At-Thahabi’s invite claimed of a speaker many students found deeply offensive:

“The University has no evidence that its code of practice on freedom of speech will be contravened by any of the planned events.

The University is committed to upholding both the right to free speech and the right to lawful protest within an environment that guarantees the safety of all users of our campuses”.

As we said following the pineapple incident, “students do not have the right to impose their religious sensibilities on others, and they must accept that they may be offended by those who do not share their convictions”.

Instead, recent events suggest that the university’s commitment to upholding freedom of speech and lawful protest do not extend to non-religious students, something that Student Rights find deeply concerning.