Bishop of Chelmsford asks about Free Speech in Universities

Chelmsford 251115On the 27th June 2016, Lord Leigh of Hurley asked the Government “what steps they are taking to counter anti-Semitism on university campuses in the United Kingdom.” The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, in my diocese, a pro-Palestinian student body forced the University of Essex in 2013 to cancel a speech from the Israeli deputy ambassador over concerns about his safety. While, of course, fully supporting what the Government are doing in this area, how can freedom of speech and extremism be more clearly distinguished so that we can take appropriate action against racism and anti-Semitism of all forms but also maintain academic free speech?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: I completely agree that freedom of speech and academic freedom are the bedrock of our higher education system. We fully support universities that show strong leadership in allowing controversial and sometimes offensive ideas to be aired, but most importantly debated, to make sure that universities are doing what they should be doing, which is robustly challenging theories and making sure that students can argue and talk down hatred that is being perpetuated.


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