The University of Nottingham has refused to acknowledge the appointment of Catholic Chaplain, Father David Palmer, following concerns over the manner in which he has expressed his opinions regarding abortion and euthanasia online. Although I disagree, I welcome his opinion. Amy explains her view further.
As a multi-faith society, the University prides itself on inclusivity: it is “a community where everyone can contribute and be appreciated for who they are”. This notion is expressed within the University of Nottingham’s Equality and Diversity Policy, one by which both staff and students are expected to abide.
However, concerns were raised over Father David Palmer’s recent social media posts on abortion and euthanasia. The University cited the manner in which Father Palmer expressed his views as the reason for their decision to break tradition.
The Times reports that he was asked to use more inclusive terminology when voicing his opinion online, yet Father David Palmer regarded this as “unacceptable policing of religious belief” and refused. He may not be far from the truth.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a central document detailing Catholic belief. Using language akin to that expressed by Father Palmer, euthanasia is believed to constitute “a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person”, and abortion is a “moral evil”.
Despite the University’s claims that the manner in which these views have been expressed is concerning “in the context of [their] community of people of many faiths”, Father David Palmer does not divulge from Catholic teaching in opinion nor language.
The University of Nottingham and the Students’ Union risk contributing to growing concerns about censorship on UK university campuses.
Thus, one must ask whether the real issue lies with the controversy of Father Palmer’s beliefs themselves, and whether the University’s actions constitute unlawful censorship of the Catholic faith. If the issue lies with the use of social media, the Policy should be revised to reflect this.
The University of Nottingham and the Students’ Union risk contributing to growing concerns about censorship on UK university campuses. Harriet Harman stated: “evidence to the joint committee on human rights showed that there is a problem of inhibition of free speech in universities.”
Father David Palmer’s failed appointment is not the first incident whereby the University has been seen to disagree with Catholic opinion, having suspended Julia Rynkiewicz from her hospital placements for almost four months due to her involvement in ‘Nottingham Students for Life’. The Society was also initially denied affiliation by the Students’ Union until they threatened legal action under the legal firm ‘SinclairsLaw’.
The University maintained that they “support the rights of all students to bodily autonomy and access to safe, legal abortion services, which is the position in Law”, yet failed to address concerns over the ability of its staff and students to speak freely without repercussions.
Controversial opinions spark emotional debate; this should be welcomed and not avoided. We, as human beings, each have differing beliefs and should have access to platforms where we may freely debate these opinions.
In refusing to allow those with differing beliefs to speak freely in multi-faith settings, we are fulfilling the ‘snowflake stereotype’
Listening to views that do not align with our own does not mean that we are agreeing with said opinions, but rather that we are learning from them. In refusing to allow those with differing beliefs to speak freely in multi-faith settings, we are fulfilling the ‘snowflake stereotype’ – the idea that younger generations are ‘snowflakes’; “easily offended” and “unable to deal with opposing opinions”.
I am pro-choice. I disagree with Father David Palmer’s opinions on abortion and euthanasia. I do not, however, resent his use of social media to express his religious belief. In fact, I welcome it.
If we are not exposed to conflict, how else are we to learn what we do and do not agree with?
To develop our moral compass, we must first be exposed to opinions with which we disagree. We must speak up for what we believe in, speak out against what we believe is harmful; educate those who are unfamiliar with our perspectives, and see any conflict of opinion as an opportunity to grow. If we are not exposed to conflict, how else are we to learn what we do and do not agree with?
To borrow the words of Ann Furedi, former CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (‘BPAS’), we should “let Catholic students decide individually if they want [Father David Palmer’s] counsel”. After all, we are encouraged to explore divergent opinions within our university studies. This should be no different.
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