Pro-life group wins affiliation at Aberdeen University

28 May 2019

Following months of silence, censorship and delay, a pro-life student group has finally been granted affiliation by the Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA, or the students’ union).

A win for Christian freedoms

With support from the Christian Legal Centre, Aberdeen Life Ethics Society (ALES) launched a legal challenge against the students’ union in April, arguing that it had discriminated against them on the sole grounds that they were pro-life.

Soon after the court filing, the students’ union suspended its pro-choice policy so that the Life Ethics Society can now become an official student body, finally receiving student union funding.

Alex Mason, a PhD student and member of ALES, said that all they wanted “was a chance to exercise our right to speak freely on campus in defence of life,” and that they were“pleased to finally have the ability to form our society and engage our fellow students on these important ethical issues.”

‘Conflicting aims’

In 2017, the Aberdeen students’ union adopted a ‘pro-choice’ policy, which meant that any pro-life groups on campus would be refused “funding, facilitation or platform” at the University of Aberdeen.

The policy also stated that,

“AUSA should oppose the unreasonable display of pro-life material within campus and at AUSA events, particularly when such material appears to imply affiliation or endorsement by AUSA or the University of Aberdeen, provides factually inaccurate information, etc.

“AUSA is a pro-choice institution and will always stand in solidarity with people seeking free, safe and legal access to abortion, contraceptive and reproductive health care.”

Previously, the student council agreed to support the campaign for the decriminalisation of abortion, and to provide students with advice on abortion.

Upon the Life Society’s application for affiliation, they received an email from the students’ union stating that,

“We unfortunately are unable to affiliate Aberdeen Life Ethics Society as you are directly against an AUSA policy and so we are not allowed to affiliate you. The policy in question … does not lapse until 2020.”

A disturbing trend

This case is part of a disturbing trend across over 100 UK universities. Reportedly, some 48% of UK universities have implemented speech codes and policies which limit religious expression. Evidence also shows that no less than 108 universities in the UK have actively censored free speech, or have done so through over-regulation.

Previously, both Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities have also censored pro-life student societies.

‘Long-awaited result’

In a statement, the Life Ethics Society said,

“AUSA informed us that our society application has been approved, which means we have officially received affiliation.

“This is a long-awaited result to a seemingly endless battle, but we could not be more pleased.”

The students’ union later confirmed the approval of the Life Ethics Society’s application.

Roger Kiska, legal counsel from the Christian Legal Centre, said,

“We welcome this decision by the Aberdeen University Student’s Association and believe it should set a precedent and send a message to all UK universities that free speech and freedom of religion must be tolerated on campus. 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.

“We hope that this case stops this snow-balling effect and that more students, currently afraid to express their truly held beliefs, will have the courage to speak out. We applaud the stance taken by ALES and wish them well as they launch their pro-life society in the new term and finally have the right to speak up for the unborn child.”

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