‘And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him’ (Revelation 13v4 – AV).
School inspectors have already turned the ‘British values’ initiative in schools into a vehicle to promote the opposite. The naïvety of our politically correct Education Secretary has seen to that. As Nick Wood wrote earlier this week, “The quest for something called British values has exposed the inspectorate’s previously hidden role as cultural commissars – a kind of Stasi officially known as the innocuous sounding Ofsted – operating in our schools.”
Well no sooner than we’d posted this warning than there was a further alarming development. The Department for Education’s thought police, not content with managing the minds of school pupils, have now turned their attention to university students.
University authorities will be instructed to vet visiting speakers’ talks and PowerPoints. If you are thinking this will just be applied if a university gets wind of a fire-brand Muslim cleric turning up on campus to revolutionise the students into bomb-making terrorists, think again.
Yes, I know this stems from the Government’s desire to prevent the kind of ‘extremism’ that puts people on a pathway to terrorism. There is rightly a deep concern about Islamist activities – though the authorities might be wiser to focus more on the internet than halls of residence. But the trouble is that university Christian Unions (CUs) are being swept up in these vague and powerful new state restrictions.
The Government’s new anti-extremism guidance applies to CU meetings and other groups’ meetings on campus as well. Since when a member of a CU was recruited by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) escapes me. And please tell me when did CU meetings become a threat to security?
No, let’s be clear that the Christian Union does not lead to terrorism. State-imposed secularism, which is – as in the schools – how this is turning out, is the wrong response to the terrorist threat.
I am frankly staggered that there has not yet been an outcry from universities at this invasion of their freedom too. Can they not see how flawed it is philosophically and morally? Have they forgotten the Magna Carta, whose 800th anniversary we celebrate this year? Will they not stand up for the principle – so bandied around after the Charlie Hebdo massacre – of the defence of freedom of expression?
Gone are the days university stood not for ‘isms’ but for enquiry, scholarship and above all freedom to think.
My memories may be rose-tinted, but I am sure there would have been uproar at such a demand by government back in the 1970s – of professors, lecturers and students alike.
Expansion and managerialism have changed universities beyond recognition. More less able students and less tuition time has dumbed them down into degree-making factories and less ‘cerebral’ places.
Will they succumb, without protest, to the latest demand made on them by the Government? Will they become the state’s snoopers without realising what this could herald – weeding out those who think incorrectly, not least those with Christian beliefs.
If you think I am over-reacting just look at what the Government’s draft ‘Prevent duty guidance’ obliges universities to do: censor all external speakers, with requirements such as 14 days minimum notice to the authorities and “advance notice of the content of the event, including an outline of the topics to be discussed and sight of any presentations, footage to be broadcast etc”.
Quite apart from this being a bureaucratic nightmare, past events indicate the level of hostility to CUs on university campuses. Over the last decade cases have included: Hull CU and Birmingham CU being told to accept non-Christians in leadership positions, Edinburgh CU being banned from holding a course on sexual ethics and Exeter CU going to court to defend its right to operate on campus. It is not hard to predict the harm these extraordinary new rules could cause.
This classic Big Brother measures provides an ideal tool to obstruct the operation of CUs or Jewish groups for that matter – another worrying possibility.
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At the very least there should be a record of our protest on the government’s books.