UK's Nottingham University reverses decision to block pro-life priest from chaplaincy role

(Photo courtesy: Nottingham University)Nottingham University

England's University of Nottingham has reversed its decision to deny a chaplaincy to a priest due to his views on abortion and assisted dying as pro-life group say they continue to challenge for free speech at institutes of higher learning.

The University of Nottingham originally rejected Father David Palmer a chaplaincy role after he referred to abortion as the 'slaughter of unborn children' and assisted suicide as 'killing the vulnerable' on Twitter, Premier Christian News reported.

At the time, a University of Nottingham spokesperson said the issue was not Palmer's views but how they were expressed.

"A university should be a place for the robust exchange of views and debate over ideas, and we have no issue with the expression of faith in robust terms - indeed we would expect any chaplain to hold their faith as primary," the spokesperson said according to Christian Today.

The university faced strong criticism over that position, with former chaplain to the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, Gavin Ashenden, calling it the "illiberal censorship of Christianity."

The university faced strong criticism over its stance, with former chaplain to the Queen, Gavin Ashenden, calling it the "illiberal censorship of Christianity".

The university has since announced that Palmer will be allowed to serve Catholic students on campus "with immediate effect" following a "revised chaplaincy recognition procedure."


The university confirmed in a statement that the procedure "allows for a preparatory year to enable the nominated chaplain, the sponsoring faith body and the university to explore together if the role is right both for the individual and the multi-faith environment at Nottingham."

"Following constructive and helpful dialogue with the Diocese of Nottingham over recent weeks, it has been agreed that Father David Palmer will be recognised under this procedure as university chaplain for the Catholic faith. He will commence his work on campus as part of our multi-faith chaplaincy team with immediate effect," the statement said.

The faith-based legal advocacy organization ADF UK supported Father David in challenging the university's initial decision, Premier reported.

ADF spokesperson Lois McLatchie told Premier the university faced a similar situation last year.

"We supported a pro-life midwifery student who had been suspended for her pro-life views too. We were able to see that suspension successfully challenged and see her return to university," said McLatchie.

"So we see that free speech does win out in the end when public pressure is involved."

McLatchie asserted that that freedom of speech should be an integral part of all educational institutions.

"Students should be able to go to university and hear and exchange ideas that are important to their future.

"If universities want to uphold what they were made to be they are going to have to learn to welcome diverse thought and diverse opinions in order to freely exchange and debate."

ADF UK has since launched a campaign to protect freedom of speech on all UK campuses.

Dr. Paul Greatrix, Registrar at The University of Nottingham was quoted on the university website as saying, "In a community of more than 35,000 people, drawn from more than 200 nationalities, we pride ourselves on a multi-faith approach so that the university is able to support and celebrate students and staff of all faiths and none.

"Our new recognition procedure will ensure that, in a spirit of support and collaboration, the university and faith leaders can welcome chaplains who will, absolutely, hold their faith primary whilst fully engaging with a multi-faith environment."

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