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March 15, 2008
With the headline in the Boar shouting “I don’t believe it” when it came to the news that Warwick Atheists had won Best New Society Award two weeks ago, the famous catchphrase seems to have been proven correct. On the last day of term, the Union decided to revoke the Society’s award and the accompanying £100 they had won. At the centre of this decision and sudden acrimony between the society and the Union’s Welfare Officer, are the posters depicting religions being disposed of in a bin. Their inspiration might very well have come from the campaign to keep the No Platform Policy, who used a symbol of a person binning a swastika, but it seems that Atheist version led to a ‘number of complaints’.
According to the Union, the Executive Committee of the Warwick Atheists Society was sent an e-mail regarding the posters that were put up around campus entitled ‘The Importance of Atheism’. The society’s executive was informed that these posters were in the process of being taken down, and that we would be in contact again once the issue had been dealt with in the appropriate manner. Indeed, Ed Callow was seen taking them down with much determination. The main image within the posters themselves was of an individual discarding the symbols of nine major global religions into a litter bin, with the tagline “It’s time to take out the trash” written at the bottom. The Union claims that they included a level of unnecessary and discriminatory language which included: “If you’re sick and tired of hearing “it’s my faith” used as a smokescreen for ridiculous viewpoints, come and take a look at what we have to say”.
The Union has also taken the decision to ban the reproduction of the image in any other publication or media. They have claimed that the “The bounds of the Equal Opportunities Appendix apply to reproductions of these posters in the same way as the posters themselves”.
According to sources close to the Warwick Atheists new Exec, the society is planning to to appeal the decision. Indeed, their main argument against revoking their award was that they were judged on their progress throughout the year, not afterwards. However, the Union takes a different view; ‘Even though this publicity went up after the distribution of awards, given that the criteria include ‘Commitment to Equal Opportunities’, ‘Good intersociety relations’ and ‘Contribution to the Union / wider University environment’, it was felt that this breach was serious enough to merit withdrawal of this honour for the 2007/2008 academic year.’
It seems that Warwick Atheists are not prepared to sit back and accept the Union’s judgment. On an unofficial blog called ‘ToolChronicles’, the ‘Chronicler’ – an anonymous ‘individual’ who according to the ‘webmaster’, doesn’t represent Warwick Atheists, highlighted the words ‘Fuck You Ed’, evidently referring to the Welfare Officer, and he/she defends Warwick Atheists position: “We’ve produced nothing as or more offensive than has been seen in the past, and it was merely a free expression of a valid viewpoint held by a great many people. Religion is mocked in every form of entertainment we have nowadays. We weren’t even doing that. This poster is not offensive to average people. A minority, an incorrectly outspoken minority at that, expressed that it offended their sensitive theistic values.”
The issue does raise questions about freedom of speech and sensitivity towards different religions. After the recent Referendum decision to now allow racists and fascists into the Union, the debate about information will not rest. Warwick students will now enjoy a rift between Mr Callow and Warwick Atheists. The ‘Chronicler’ stated “We’re taking it to appeal, and we’re going to fight it every step of the way. Bring it on, Callow.”
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Outgoing Head of News
February 07, 2008
After the recent revelations regarding the forbidden bugging of Labour MP Sadiq Khan, and the government’s push to raise the terrorist detention limit to 42 days, RaW news has been speaking to the Conservative and Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretaries to tell us why they believe that raising the limit above 28 days is wrong, and why they opposed ID cards. We have also been looking at the reasons behind the government’s attempt to infringe on civil liberties for needs of security.
The government has been under pressure from the police to raise the time in which terrorist suspects can be detained without charge, which has slowly risen from 3 days, to 14 days, and now to 28 days. At the end of the Tony Blair’s premiership, the government tried to push through 90 days, but this led to Labour’s first Commons defeat. As a result, they have now reduced their demands and in the new Counter Terrorism bill, they low want 42 days after they bargained down from an earlier position of 56 – this has led to accusations of indecisiveness,… and confusion. However, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said to her defence, “We have listened to the concerns of community groups and others and the proposals brought forward today aim to strike the right balance between the need to protect human rights and ensuring police have the powers they need, when they need them, to tackle terrorism.” Yet, this still has little impact on the views of the suspected 38 Labour rebels, who will be able to bring about another government defeat if they combine forces with the opposition.
The police have argued that they need these extra powers so that they can collect more evidence in order to prosecute terrorist suspects. It will then supposedly enable them to prevent more terrorist attacks. However, the opposition and a some parliamentary committees have argued that they
can already use the Civil Contingencies Act to detain suspects in exceptional circumstances.
As for ID cards, the main legislation to make them compulsory has been passed, but it will need further government action for introduce them for all citizens in 2012. From 2010, if you need to renew your passport, you will have to get an ID card at the same time which will contain biometric data. With the recent disk fiasco when details of 25 million people were lost by a government department, support for ID cards has dropped from 80% of the population to about 48%. The government has said that they still want to introduce them, but according to a Home Office Minister, it will be unlikely that we will need to carry one for another several years – perhaps another move away from Blair’s legacy which Gordon Brown may be hoping to dismantle, or an attempt to remove the largest dividing line between Labour and the Opposition parties.
The issue of ID cards and detention without trial is on of Liberty vs. Security. There is in fact a group run by Shami Chakrabati called Liberty, which campaigns to protect basic rights and freedoms through the courts, in Parliament and in the wider community. It does this through a combination of public campaigning, test case litigation, parliamentary lobbying, and policy analysis. They are the lobby group which has been most vocal on the side of the opposition. The government, on the other hand have been supported by the police, most prominently the Met. Commissioner Sir Ian Blair.
This week,we went to London to speak exclusively with David Davis MP, the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary, and former Warwick student, to hear his views on the recent events. We interviewed him in his office adorned with pictures of the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, something which was a bit of a shock considering that he is always painted as a great right winger. He said that students should be more worried about their civil liberties in the future, rather than the terrorist threat.
Listen to the edited down interview here:
You can listen to the full interview here (includes a question about whether he believed he was a liberal and his view on MP – Constituent confidentiality):
Before interviewing David Davis, we spoke to Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary to hear his views on the matter. Like David Davis, he came second in his party’s leadership battle and has ended up shadowing Jacqui Smith. Interestingly, Chris Huhne said that he adrmired David Davis’ liberal traits, whilst David Davis said at the end of the interview that he quite liked Chris Huhne too. He was concerned that Britain was sleepwalking into a surveillance society.
We tried to speak with the government but they did not have anyone available.
You can also listen to our exclusive interviews with Dominic Grieve MP, the Education Officer at the National Theatre, and Ed Vaizey MP next Friday on RaW News Insight at 5pm. Please leave your comments below.
Head of News