The Student Union at Queensland University have shown themselves to be opposed to differing opinion and free speech like many other secular universities around the world. The school's Newman Society has been censored and threatened with disaffiliation from the student union because union leaders believed the group's "pro-woman" and "pro-pregnancy" campaign took a stand against abortion. The poster and leaflets, displayed on a booth outside the student caf,, did not mention abortion but featured a photograph of an eight week old child in the womb, and offered compassion and support for young women who might find themselves facing the difficult challenge of an unplanned pregnancy.
Elise Nally, third-year applied science student and Newman Society secretary, said in a report by The Australian that the union's action was totalitarian and against free speech. "I'd like to know what laws we've broken," Nally said. "The union is acting like a dictator."
Joshua Young, president of the student union, gave this explanation for the union's actions against Catholics on campus: "I know the Newman Society thinks the union is being heavy handed, but the student union voted in 1993 for free, safe abortion on demand so all women have a genuine choice when faced with unwanted pregnancy." From a student body of 30,000, a total of approximately 3,500 voted in the 1993 referendum, with about 1900 in favor of abortion rights, 1400 against, and 200 abstaining. When asked if the vote precludes other views being advocated in campus debate, Young said, "It does."
The Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA), which represents Catholic students in schools throughout Australia, issued a statement criticizing the decision of the student union. The statement said that pro-life groups had been active at the University of Queensland for five years after the student referendum's passage in 1993 and no disciplinary action was taken against them. The ACSA argued that the referendum only established the school as a pro-choice campus, and did not require any particular viewpoint to be suppressed.
"ACSA is concerned that the use of a 15 year old referendum by the UQ Union to take disciplinary action against the Society raises serious concerns for students' freedom of speech and the implications this might have on other student groups at The University of Queensland," the statement declared.
ACSA National President Camillus O'Kane said that, "if the truth becomes something we can simply vote for, it becomes a weapon that can be used against others. This is why freedom of speech is one of the guiding principles of our society. It is a shame that this incident has occurred at one of Australia's leading universities, a place of learning where we should be able to express our views freely."
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