Newman Society Censured on Australian Campus — Won’t Toe Pro-abortion Line

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 café, 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.”

Link to the Australian Catholic Students Association press release: http://catholicstudents.org.au/images/acsa_media_release_newman_society150508.pdf

To express concern please contact:
The University of Queensland
Brisbane QLD 4072 Australia
Office of the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Paul Greenfield
Phone: +61 (7) 3365 1300
Fax: +61 (7) 3365 1266
E-mail: vc@uq.edu.au

The University of Queensland Student Union
Joshua Young, President
Phone: +61 (7) 3377 2200
Fax: +61 (7) 3377 2220
E-mail: uqunion@uq.edu.au

To express support to the Australian Catholic Students Association please contact:
Camillus O’Kane, President
PO Box 171
Broadway NSW 2007
Australia
Phone: 0407 538 044
Email: president@catholicstudents.org.au
Website: http://catholicstudents.org.au/

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  • Thomas

    Before readers of this article judge the union president in his actions, you may not know that the union president’s hands are tied by the current rules of the union.

    As the uq union is a voluntary association, all materials produced by student clubs affiliated to the union need to be approved by the union president. If the union president approves material that is against union policy as previously determined by referendum then the president can be summarily dismissed from office.

    In this case the Newman Society put the union president in a very difficult position. They didn’t seek the approval of the president for their materials before they distributed it. Then when the president told them that the material could not go out with the official sanction of the union because it contravened settled policy, they cried foul.

    It seems that this entire exercise was a cynical publicity stunt on behalf of the Newman Society to gain publicity by flagrating violating rules for union-affiliated clubs – which they were clearly aware of. The Newman Society know full well that they could have distributed materials on campus as “UQ Catholics” or whatever.

    However, what they really wanted to do was cause trouble for the conservative union exec and get some publicity out of the whole exercise. If the Newman Society REALLY felt passionate about this issue, they would assemble the 1500 signatures required to hold a new referendum instead of trying to manipulate the union president into breaking the very rules that he has to keep!

  • Matthew

    For the benefit of Catholic Exchange readers I would like to correct the highly erroneous comments made by one “Thomas.” The exact same post also appears on the Cathnews website by someone calling themselves “Hans Kung” so personally I have no idea who this individual is.

    “Thomas” starts by forewarning people against “judging” the president of the UQ Union. However later in his post he wastes absolutely no time in making some of the most incredible judgments about people I personally know and have been involved with in this matter which are completely untrue.

    Firstly his statement that the union is voluntary was not true back in 1993. However to cut to the point we DID seek (and were granted) permission to set up our table and and told them we were coming and what it would be on. At no stage did they remind or ask us for further permission. To use Thomas’ own argument back on him if they were really so passionate about approval they would have mentioned this to us. Students in a society are average university students and do not necessarily know every single in and out of the laws. Therefore in coming and seeking permission we were doing the right thing and what to our knowledge was sufficient. Furthermore it is worth adding that in the finish the clubs and socs committee were unable to judge whether our materials did violate their policy and did not uphold the president’s charge on this particular point.

    I cannot make much of a comment to other readers on Thomas exercise in mind reading about what we “really wanted to do”. Obviously he has no idea how difficult and time consuming it would be for university students to collect 1500 signatures on this matter in a very secular environment. Trying gain enough signatures for a pro-life club has already proved a challenge so far.

    For Newman to “know full well” what it would be doing to the president by engaging in this activity we would had to have first known that there even was a pro-choice policy of the Union which we could potentially run into conflict with (although I hasten to add once again we have not been officially punished for doing this as the fact of whether we had was effectively put in the “too hard basket”). I can certainly say we had no idea that some referendum held when most of us were in grades 1 and 2 at school was passed at the university, by the 83rd Council no less! Why we would get some joy out of “causing trouble” for a “conservative” (whatever that means) president as opposed to “liberals” who want even more so want to shut us down is a mystery. But that’s what happens when you engage in judging hearts and minds. Hopefully readers can discern the blatant hypocrisy in Thomas post on this point which I mentioned further above.

    There is much more to the whole issue than I could say here but I hope that balances the ledger somewhat for Catholic Exchange readers.

    Matthew

    Newman Society Treasurer.

  • Thomas

    Matthew,

    As an affiliated club of long standing, your club knows FULL WELL that all club material must be approved by the Union President. This is a legal requirement as the Union is an unincorporated association and as such, the President is held to be PERSONALLY liable for all material produced by the union and its affiliates – ie. clubs and socs.

    Every O Week the Newman Society gets all its materials approved by the union president. However, with regard to this occasion, your club specifically chose to NOT seek approval. Remember the Gospel of Matthew – “By their works, you shall know them.”

    You state:

    “…the clubs and socs committee were unable to judge whether our materials did violate their policy and did not uphold the president’s charge on this particular point. ”

    This is incorrect. The clubs and socs committee determined that your club failed to seek the approval of the president before you distributed your materials. This rule applies to all club and societies – whether Christian, Muslim, atheist or socialist. Your claimed ignorance on this matter is disingenuous as you continued to distribute this material AFTER you were asked to seek the president’s approval.

  • Thomas

    As an affiliated club of long standing, this club knows FULL WELL that all club material must be approved by the Union President. This is a legal requirement as the Union is an unincorporated association and as such, the President is held to be PERSONALLY liable for all material produced by the union and its affiliates – ie. clubs and socs.

    Every O Week the Newman Society gets all its materials approved by the union president. However, with regard to this occasion, this club specifically chose to NOT seek approval. Remember the Gospel of Matthew – “By their works, you shall know them.”

    The clubs and socs committee (an elected body) of the union determined that your club failed to seek the approval of the president before this club distributed their materials. This rule applies to all club and societies – whether Christian, Muslim, atheist or socialist. Claimed ignorance on this matter is disingenuous as this club continued to distribute this material AFTER they were asked to seek the president’s approval.

    Just as the Catholic church has canonical laws and theologies within which its members operate, so too the union. Freedom of sppech cannot be absolute because then speech that deliberately seeks to stifle others would be tolerated. A line has to be drawn somewhere. If the Catholic Students Club don’t like the union’s policies, they are free to disaffiliate!

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