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UK Moves to Strengthen University Free Speech Protections

Sarah Chaffee

Free Speech

Last month, I reported on the UK Parliament’s findings about abridgement of free speech at universities. Now, the government is taking action to protect freedom of inquiry and debate.

BBC News reports:

Free speech in universities has to be protected from “chilling” intolerance and “over-zealous” regulations, says the Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah.

The minister has met university and student leaders on Thursday to create a more straightforward set of guidelines for ensuring open debate on campus.

Mr Gyimah warned “unfashionable or unpopular” views should not be stifled.

Sir Michael Barber, who chairs the Office for Students, said “challenging” ideas had a right to be heard.

The meeting of higher education groups and government — described as a “free speech summit” —is a response to concerns that universities have become hostile places for freedom of expression.…

[Gyimah’s message is] being claimed as the biggest intervention by ministers in campus free speech for more than 30 years….

“A society in which people feel they have a legitimate right to stop someone expressing their views on campus simply because they are unfashionable or unpopular is rather chilling,” says Mr Gyimah.

Stretching back to the Magna Carta, British law is strongly grounded in concepts of freedom protected from abuse by tyranny. And the British Bill of Rights in 1689 declared that members of Parliament have freedom of speech. This foundation of respect for individual rights continues to make free expression an important issue in the national culture. Other countries could learn from the British example.

Now if only the international scientific community would extend freedom of speech to students and scholars at universities who are critics of evolutionary theory — that would be a full and true tribute to the best traditions of liberty.

But generally, students in the UK and elsewhere must keep quiet when it comes to their doubts about Darwin, or their interest in intelligent design. These moves in the UK are welcome, but there’s a long way to go.

In the meantime, there’s something important you can to do. Would you help us support these students? Our yearly Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design may be the only chance some of these young people get to talk about their questions and their careers with scientists and scholars who find that their research points away from materialistic evolution.

Go here to contribute to our Summer Seminar 2018 Campaign. Thank you!

Photo: UK Houses of Parliament, by Maurice from Zoetermeer, Netherlands [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.