Students at Oxford University are demanding the institution take action against a Catholic law professor and remove him from his position over alleged homophobia.
At least 400 people have signed a petition calling for John Finnis to be removed from Oxford and the university to clarify its policy on discriminatory professors.
The petition alleges that Finnis has a long history of “extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people”.
It adds that: “He is known for being particularly homophobic and transphobic. He has even advised US state government not to provide legal protection for LGBTQ+ people who suffer discrimination.”
The authors of the petition have included collections of Finnis’ work as evidence of his alleged discrimination. This includes a segment from a paper published in 1994 that states homosexuality is “never a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life”. It is “destructive of human character and relationships”, he wrote, because “it treats human sexual capacities in a way which is deeply hostile to the self-understanding of those members who are willing to commit themselves to real marriage”.
Finnis told the Oxford Student: “I stand by all these writings. There is not a ‘phobic’ sentence in them. The 1994 essay promotes a classical and strictly philosophical moral critique of all non-marital sex acts and has been republished many times, most recently by Oxford University Press in the third volume of my Collected Essays.”
Alex Benn, one of the authors of the petition, said Finnis had “built a career on demonisation. His so-called arguments about disadvantaged people are hateful, not to mention widely discredited”.
Benn told the Oxford Student: “Campaigns like this one often receive simplistic responses calling for tolerance or academic freedom. But law, employment and education already draw boundaries about what won’t be tolerated. The humanity of disadvantaged people, including LGBTQ+ people, isn’t a debate … I started this campaign not only to address the specific issue of Finnis’ role at Oxford, but to get Oxford to make up its mind – either it’s in support of equality or it’s not.”
A university spokesperson said: “Oxford University and the Faculty of Law promote an inclusive culture, which respects the rights and dignity of all staff and students. We are clear we do not tolerate any form of harassment of individuals on any grounds, including sexual orientation.
“Equally, the university’s harassment policy also protects academic freedom of speech and is clear that vigorous academic debate does not amount to harassment when conducted respectfully and without violating the dignity of others. All of the university’s teaching activity, including that in the Faculty of Law, is conducted according to these principles.”