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University fires chaplain for views

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This week Glasgow University fired a chaplain after he ran a service at his parish church to atone for the offence of gay pride in Glasgow. The Glasgow Pride event was led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and drew 12,000 people through the streets. Although the chaplain’s service was held off university premises and was not related to his work as chaplain, the university announced just days later that relations with him had been terminated. Tim Dieppe comments on the implications for free speech and open discussion in universities.

It was reported this week that Glasgow University removed a university chaplain after he held a service to atone for the “gross offence against God” of Glasgow Pride.

Service held in parish church

The organisers said that more than 12,000 people marched in Glasgow Pride last Saturday, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In response, Father Mark Morris who was serving as Catholic chaplain to Glasgow Caledonian University, held a church service in his parish church on Monday night to seek “reparation for the gross offence to God which is Pride Glasgow.” The service was described by the Catholic Church in Glasgow as unrelated to Father Morris’s role as chaplain.

Fired within days

The university, however, took remarkably swift action. By Wednesday morning it announced on twitter that it had severed ties with Father Mark Morris.

University principal, professor Pamela Gillies, said:

"Following due consultation Father Mark Morris will not return to his chaplaincy role at the university in September. The university will work with the Archdiocese of Glasgow to ensure the continued provision of chaplaincy support for staff and students at our Faith and Belief Centre when the new term starts.

"The University is strongly inclusive and committed to supporting equality and diversity on campus."


Exclusive inclusivity

The fact that Father Mark Morris conducted this service in his own parish church, not on university grounds, and not as part of his role as chaplain to the university seems to be irrelevant to the university.

The fact that the service was in line with official Roman Catholic teaching also appears to be irrelevant to the university.

The university seems to have taken it upon itself to censor religious views – no matter where they are expressed.

It has decided to exclude a chaplain for his views and to link this with their commitment to  inclusivity! Perhaps the university authorities are unaware of the irony?

Catholic community extremely disappointed

The Glasgow Caledonia University Catholic Community made a statement on their Facebook page in response to Father Morris’s dismissal. It is worth reproducing in full:

“The Catholic Community at GCU would like to express our full support and solidarity with Fr. Mark Morris at this time. He is a faithful priest who has served our community with joy, dignity, and a smiling face for many years now.  We are extremely disappointed that the university have decided to dismiss Fr. Morris. It is frankly abhorrent that a Catholic Priest would be dismissed from his post as a Catholic chaplain for merely reaffirming the teachings of the Catholic faith.

“The Church is very clear that any sexual acts committed outside the context of marriage are sinful. Naturally, it would therefore be expected that the Church would not align herself with a movement like “Pride”, which promotes sexual promiscuity and celebrates extra-marital actions which are considered gravely sinful.

“In line with Church teaching, Fr. Morris has made it clear on many occasions that Homosexual persons are called to a life of chastity. In no way does this mean that homosexual persons are not welcome here at the chaplaincy, nor does it mean that they have fallen short of the love of God. Anyone who knows Fr. Morris will know he is a gentle giant, and is very careful to be truthful but also charitable. He is well-loved by the students and spends a lot of time with the homeless, providing them with meals and a listening ear.

“It must also be remembered that Fr. Morris’ comments and his decision to organise a service to pray for those at Pride were made completely within his own parish in Balornock and have nothing to do with his duties as a chaplain to GCU. The media, for whatever irrelevant and cruel reason, have decided to focus on his role as a University Chaplain. We think this association is unfair and unnecessary.

“In all charity, we would urge the university to reconsider this unfair dismissal of our chaplain. We also thank those who have offered us support at this time, and we ask that you continue to keep Fr. Morris in your prayers.”


Universities becoming increasingly intolerant

Earlier this year, the Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a report on Freedom of Speech in Universities which highlighted serious concerns over various ways in which free speech is being inhibited in universities. There has been a spate of no-platforming incidents and disruption of events.

Christian Concern is supporting Felix Ngole who was expelled from Sheffield University for posting comments on Facebook that were essentially viewed as politically incorrect.

Journalist Caroline Farrow reports that only this month she was invited by the debating society at Exeter University participate in a debate with the motion: ‘This House believes there are only two genders’. This motion was then cancelled after debating society realised that the motion was ‘offensive and hurtful’ and ‘badly framed’. So now we can’t even debate how many genders there are? To question how many genders there are is to offend? The debating society is currently advertising a debate with the motion: ‘This house would have sex with a robot’. So apparently discussing sex with a robot is fine, but discussing how many genders is too offensive?

In the case of Father Morris, it is not only free speech, but freedom of religion that has been curtailed. The university will not tolerate a chaplain who expresses biblical views on sexual practice in a church service.

Chaplains being targeted

It appears that chaplains are on the front line of the battle for free speech and the ability to hold and state biblical views.

Earlier this year, volunteer prison chaplain Pastor Paul Song, with 19 years’ experience and no complaints from prisoners, was banned from Brixton Prison by a more senior Muslim chaplain. Christian Concern are supporting him as he seeks to be reinstated.

Christian Concern is also supporting Reverend Barry Trayhorn, who worked as a gardener at HMP Littlehey prison, and volunteered in chapel services. He quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in a chapel service and a complaint was made by one of the prisoners. Rev. Trayhorn was then put under considerable pressure and Christian Concern brought a claim of constructive dismissal against the prison. It is important to note that the complaint was about reading a passage of the Bible in a chapel service.

Universities indoctrinating – not educating

Universities used to be places where students are taught how to think. Now there is very much a culture of making sure that students are taught what to think.

When free speech is being curtailed at universities and a student is expelled for personal Facebook posts, we know that something is wrong with our university education system. Now a chaplain is fired for expressing views consistent with his religion in his own parish and it is even more clear. Universities are not about education, they are about indoctrination. ‘Conform or be conformed’ is the message. Open dissent from political correctness is not tolerated. Even discussion of sensitive subjects is disallowed. The thought police are watching and listening.

Christianity promotes free speech because it is unafraid of the truth. The truth will win in the end. But it will only win if it is voiced. Silence is not an option. We need to be prepared to speak out and be unafraid of the consequences.



BBC News: University chaplain removed after holding service to atone for Gay Pride event

The Times: Chaplain dropped after condemning Pride

Glasgow Caledonian University tweet announcing Father Mark Morris will not return as chaplain.

GCU Catholic Community Facebook statement.

Christian Concern: Free speech in universities being limited.

Christian Concern: The Case of the Politically Incorrect Student.

Christian Concern: Volunteer Chaplain excluded from prison in move to wipe out “Christian domination”.

Christian Concern: A judicial warning shot that should put the fear of God into us.

Exeter Students Guild Debating Society: This House Would Have Sex With A Robot