Press Release

Cancel culture escalates as student society receive death threats for pro-life beliefs

6 October 2021         Issued by: Christian Concern

Members of an affiliated pro-life society at Exeter University have received death threats and calls for their funding to be cut by cancel culture activists.

A petition with over 5,000 signatures has been launched by pro-choice students at the university calling for Students for Life, a society who take a stand for the rights of pre-born children, to be ‘abolished.

The petition, and an open letter to university authorities, follows a campaign of abuse against the group’s Instagram account.

Members of the pro-life group, introducing themselves for the first time this term to their followers, received threats of violence and were told that they would “end up at the bottom of the quay.”

The society advertises how it equips its members with “the tools to share the pro-life message in a sensitive and respectful way.”

The threats to the group have been reported to Devon and Cornwall police, university authorities and the group are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.

Encouragingly, the University of Exeter Students’ Guild has responded to the issue stating: “As your Students’ Guild, we support freedom of speech. We want to foster an environment where our members can participate fully, feel able to question and challenge, express new ideas, discuss controversial and or unpopular opinions within the law- all without fear of intolerance or discrimination.”

The story follows a string of cancel culture issues on UK campuses, with pro-life groups often being targeted.

In future, the government’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill could prove relevant to decisions about recognising and protecting student societies. The bill includes measures to ensure that “affiliation to the students’ union is not denied to any student society in relation to an individual, their ideas, beliefs or views” or “in relation to a society or other body, its policy or objectives or the ideas, beliefs or views of any of its members.”

Alireza Ghazi-Torbati, President of the Exeter University Students For Life said:

“As a society we speak up for and take a stand for the rights of pre-born children, 200,000 of which lose their lives to abortion every year in this country. We aim to equip pro-life students to advocate for the pro-life position and to provide a space to discuss the issue respectfully and sensitively. We also aim to support prospective and current student parents, as well as those who may be suffering post-abortive trauma.

“The UK has traditionally been a bastion of free speech, but in recent years that has been eroded and the trend has been reflected in over 100 of our universities. Pro-life groups in particular have been targeted and faced attempted censorship for valid beliefs held by many across the world.

“Our student group should enjoy the same rights as every other student group on campus, free of discrimination or harassment. The death threats made against members of our society are completely unacceptable and deeply disturbing. We have contacted the university. We would like them to take immediate action on this.

“Exeter University must be a marketplace for free thinking, which is what universities are designed to be. As George Orwell said: ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.’”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It is disturbing that we appear to be living in a world where students advocating on behalf of our pre-born children, are being subjected to death threats.

“A pro-life society has just as much right to enjoy its freedom of association as any other society at the university. The treatment the society is receiving at the hands of cancel culture activists is very disturbing.

“It’s a relief that the University of Exeter is defending the pro-life students’ freedom to speak.”

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