A pro-life society is taking legal action against one of Scotland’s leading universities for refusing it students’ union affiliation.
In November, Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) said it would not offer “funding, facilitation or platform” to the Aberdeen Life Ethics Society.
The affected students say the university’s policy of “deplatforming pro-life student societies” violates equality and human rights laws.
The Aberdeen Life Ethics group first applied for affiliation with AUSA in April last year – a platform which would have made them eligible for grants, campus facilities and a presence at freshers’ week.
But AUSA, which previously decided to oppose the “unreasonable display of pro-life material within campus”, rejected the society.
A spokesperson for the society said the pro-life position “may be an unpopular minority opinion” but it is fully protected by law.
The legal action was only taken after “repeated efforts to resolve this problem” internally.
In a statement, the society said: “The Aberdeen Life Ethics Society filed a suit in Aberdeen Sheriff Court against both the Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) and the University of Aberdeen, alleging unlawful discrimination against the society and the violation of rights protected by UK law.
“The lawsuit asks the court to declare that AUSA’s policy of deplatforming pro-life student societies is incompatible with existing Equality and Human Rights law.”
Lawyers for Aberdeen Life Ethics Society said the union should represent “the interests and diverse beliefs of nearly 14,500 students”.
Instead it has “adopted a policy which in essence has recast the students’ union as a pro-abortion campaigning organisation.”
‘Freedom of expression’
The case demonstrates the ongoing struggle between pro-life groups and student unions across the UK.
In 2015, the Stratchclyde Students for Life group applied to be affiliated with its students’ union but was rejected on the basis that: “Allowing an anti-choice group to form would be a barrier to freedom, equality and body autonomy”.
And in 2018 Glasgow University also prevented Glasgow Students for Life from becoming a registered society.
After much opposition, the universities have since backed down on their opposition to the pro-life groups.