An acclaimed philosopher could be banned from giving a lecture at a British university thanks to crusading students’ union officers.
Representatives at Bristol University are pushing for a talk by Sir Roger Scruton to be axed, because they believe he has said homophobic things in the past.
He was due to feature in the institution’s Richmond Lecture Series, and to be co-hosted by the philosophy and journalism societies.
A committee of SU representatives are currently weighing up whether to delete him from the lineup, which they can do unilaterally.
"It is not that you wish to give offence, but you are up against people who are expert in taking it" – Sir Roger Scruton
— Mike Tyler ن (@MikeTylerSport) October 22, 2016
A statement said: “Given our commitment to Equality and Diversity, the SU officer team have expressed concerns about one of the speakers given his published views on homosexuality and have raised this with the student led committee of the initiative for them to consider.”
When Heat Street asked exactly what Sir Roger said that disqualified him, the Students’ Union could not point to anything in particular.
Sir Roger has written some 40 books and was first published in 1974.
Past works include arguing that “feeling repelled by [homosexuality] might have a justification” – though in a 2010 interview with The Guardian he effectively recanted and said he “wouldn’t stand by what I said then”.
More recently, he opposed gay marriage being made law in the UK, and angered some by writing a piece for The Spectator which argued that same-sex marriage could be considered homophobic.
He holds a number of other unfashionable opinions, such as being conservative, championing the right to offend and supporting Brexit. Sir Roger has so far declined to comment.
The potential ban – which could yet be overturned – is the latest controversy to hit Bristol, which is proving itself one of Britain’s most censorious institutions.
Earlier this year the union pressured the musical theatre society to cancel an adaptation of an opera by Verdi because its performance has a history of actors using blackface.
And the students’ union also tried to crack down on an allegedly offensive “chav-themed” fancy dress party planned by the cheerleading society – which they then held anyway.
Sir Roger is also not the only figure to risk a campus ban in the UK. Last year thousands campaigned for feminist icon Germaine Greer to be stopped from speaking at Cardiff University.