Written by Student Rights on 10 February 2014 at 3pm

LSBU Student Union bans depiction of Flying Spaghetti Monster (Update: Statement released by LSBU Union)

UPDATE: Following meetings with both the Atheist Society and the AHS, the Student Union at LSBU has released a statement apologising for the action taken. Read the full statement here.

UPDATE: LSBU Student Union has released a statement on this issue:

"As a Students’ Union we encourage and promote debate of all religious, political and social issues. We will always listen and respond to complaints made to us by our students but we do not condone censorship; we encourage and promote debate of all religious, political and social issues at the Students’ Union."

"We would like to state that the incident reported arose as a result of the interaction of individuals at a student-led event. It does not the reflect the policy of the Students’ Union."

“No individual or student group is being or has been banned from Union activity. We will be meeting with the President of the Atheist Society this week to discuss what happened, any concerns she may have and how we can continue supporting them and their members."

“As a student-led organisation, we want to see all of our societies develop and grow and we will be contacting all of the societies to ensure that they are able to feedback any concerns they may have and work with us in future to ensure we continue offering them the right level of support and representation.

Students from London South Bank University (LSBU) Atheist Society have had a poster removed from their stall at this term's ‘Refreshers Fair’, with the LSBU student union claiming it caused “religious offence”.

The poster featuring religious parody figure the Flying Spaghetti Monster depicted the Sistine Chapel painting ‘The Creation of Adam’, and was removed by union officials who then prevented society members from replacing the posters.

 Despite initially claiming that the posters had been removed due to the depiction of Adam’s genitals it was later admitted that the union had acted as the posters mocked religious art.

This is not the first time that LSBU Atheist Society has had its posters removed, with ones referencing the supposed miracle of water being turned to wine taken down before Christmas.

In addition to this, following the claim by the Student Union that the Flying Spaghetti Monster posters were offensive, the LSBU Atheist stall at the Fair was replaced by another society.

LSBU Atheist Society President Cloe Ansari said:

 “I felt harassed and intimidated – it was not aimed at protecting other students from harm, but rather an attempt to sideline and restrict our rights; perhaps perceived as the easier option rather than standing up to the (much bigger than us) “religious societies”.

Rather than included, we have been made to feel as an unwelcome minority of secularists”.

The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Student Societies (AHS), to which LSBU Atheist Society is affiliated, has also released a statement, with President Rory Fenton saying:

This is beyond parody and it is not the first time one of our groups have had similar problems with Southbank University, who were last year told not to criticise religion.

We are very concerned by the tendency to censor our member societies for fear of offending religious sensitivities by overly zealous union representatives.

Universities need again to be reminded to recognise our members’ right to free speech: the same rights that also ensure freedom of expression for religious students, adherents to the Flying Spaghetti Monster included.

Universities must recognise that their duty is to their students, not their students’ beliefs”.

As with the harassment of students for wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ t-shirts in October 2013 this is another example of Student Unions overstepping their duties and attacking the freedom of expression of students in the name of offence.

Simply because something may offend religious students does not mean that it can be removed or suppressed, and we hope that LSBU Student Union will apologise to the LSBU Atheist Society and reverse this decision as soon as possible.