John Finnis is a reactionary. His views are unpleasant. He thinks that homosexuality is “never ever a legitimate, humanly appropriate option” which mass migration makes up “reverse colonisation”.
Finnis is likewise emeritus teacher of law and legal approach at University College, Oxford. Recently, students launched a petition to have him eliminated from mentor for his “record of exceptionally prejudiced views versus numerous groups of disadvantaged individuals”.
Critics of the petition have actually reacted by recommending that, as fellow Oxford law teacher Les Green put it, to fire Finnis “exclusively on the basis that he protects incorrect or repugnant views is a clear infraction of scholastic liberty”. The petition’s authors, Alex Benn and Daniel Taylor, dismiss such arguments as “simplified”. Finnis might not victimize gay individuals, or be violent to them in class, however LGBTQ+ trainees who understand his views “might be daunted, stop contributing and discover less efficiently”. Plural societies, they firmly insist, need to always restrict the scholastic liberty of academics embracing “prejudiced” views.
Believe, nevertheless, about the reasoning of this argument. Should Orthodox Muslims, whose views on homosexuality may not be that various from Finnis’s, likewise be disallowed from mentor since their beliefs may trigger stress and anxiety to LGBTQ+ trainees? Should Jewish trainees can require the elimination of a scholastic who supports the BDS boycott of Israel that many regard as antisemitic? Should atheist academics who hold that faith is wicked, which the world would be a much better location were faith (and thus followers) not to exist be eliminated if spiritual trainees feel “daunted, stop contributing” and the rest?
In a plural society, it’s not simply reactionaries such as Finnis whose views trainees may discover offending or prejudiced. And as soon as we begin sacking individuals for their political or ethical beliefs, it will not simply be reactionaries who’ll lose their tasks. Undoubtedly, this is currently the case. It’s a not a pattern we must motivate.
• Kenan Malik is an Observer writer