News that Mail on Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens is to speak at St Hugh’s College has been met with strong criticism.
Members of St Hugh’s Blue Pen Society raised objections on their Facebook group about Hitchens’ visit after it was announced that he was to talk in the college chapel.
Tim Ellis, who was the first to object to Hitchens’ visit, said: “As a modern progressive, feminist college started for the education of women, I don’t think we should condone his speaking in college.”
“The chaplain is entitled to invite who he wishes to speak, as is Peter Hitchens to speak his mind. At the same time that does not mean we shouldn’t also protest his views, and show our deep disapproval.”
Ellis highlighted in particular two of Hitchens’ blogs, called: “We show tolerance to ‘gays’ and get tyranny in return’ and ‘Some rapes ARE worse than others… there, I’ve said it”.
Matt Handley, a History student at Hugh’s, posted on the Facebook group saying: “How can the Chapel offer support to LGBTQ students when it invites someone who says he never wants to read another word about homosexuality?”
In response to the controversy, Hitchens said: “It sounds like excuse making for an attack on free speech and an attempt to impose censorship.”
Particular attention was drawn to one of Hitchens’ article on homosexuality, in which he stated: ‘If I never again had to read or write a word about homosexuals, I would be very happy.”
“I really don’t want to know what other people do in their bedrooms. But these days they really, really want us all to know.”
“This is the action of a tyranny in operation…Isn’t it amazing to reflect that this campaign began in the name of tolerance?”
Laurie Blackman, a third-year Historian at St Hugh’s, said: “I’ve read what he’s said on rape and women, and I think his views on those issues are quite abhorrent.”
“But to my knowledge he won’t be speaking about these things, and I don’t think the chapel has to agree with a speaker’s every political or social opinion in order to invite them to speak on a theological topic. I don’t intend to see him speak.”
Matt Handley later stated: “I personally disagree vehemently with an awful lot that Hitchens has to say. College Facebook groups are good forum in which it can be discussed if those sorts of personal disagreements should result in formal action.”
“On this occasion however, after healthy debate and some JCR members who know the Chaplain well clarifying his reasons for inviting Hitchens, it doesn’t appear that such an action will be taken.”