Remove John Finnis from Oxford; Clarify University Policy on Discriminatory Professors

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Petition to (1) stop John Finnis teaching at Oxford University because of his discrimination and (2) have Oxford University clarify its policy on discriminatory professors.


(1) John Finnis

John Finnis, emeritus professor at Oxford’s Law Faculty, has a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people. 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.

His hateful statements include:

  • Gay sex is similar to bestiality—having sex with animals (1992; 1994; 2011).
  • Being gay is ‘evil’ and 'destructive of human character' (1994; 2011).
  • Approving of gay sex is like approving of killing innocent people in a terrorist massacre (2011).
  • Governments and societies should ‘discourage’ being gay, and they should encourage anti-gay educational programmes (1994; 2011).
  • Being gay should count ‘at least as a negative factor, if not a disqualification’, in allowing adoption of children (2011).
  • There may be a relationship between being gay and abusing children (2011).

He also has a record of other forms of discrimination, namely racism and xenophobia. For example, he has stated that:

  • Cultural diversity will lead to ‘miseries of hatred, bloodshed and political paralysis’, comparing this to the Bosnian genocide in former Yugoslavia (2009).
  • Modern immigration is a kind of ‘reverse colonization’ (2009).

Finnis teaches seminars on the BCL and MJur, the main Law graduate courses. This is unacceptable. It puts a hugely prejudiced man in a position of responsibility and authority. It makes people who are affected by his discrimination question whether they should attend these seminars, which are supposed to be the main source of teaching on the BCL and MJur. University is a place to focus on education, not to be forced to campaign against or to be taught by professors who have promoted hatred towards students that they teach.


(2) Oxford University’s policy on discriminatory professors

We petition Oxford to clarify its official position on professors who have expressed discriminatory views and behaved in discriminatory ways, especially those who have shown obvious hatred and intolerance. As things stand, Oxford’s Equality Policy does not offer enough guidance on this issue. It is opaque and unhelpful for students and staff who wish to raise concerns and who wish to attain the ‘inclusive culture which promotes equality’ and ‘values diversity’ that the Equality Policy identifies.

The Harassment Policy is also unhelpful in this respect. Although it identifies the aims of promoting ‘a positive environment’ of fairness and respect, ‘free from harassment’, it does not provide guidance on how to deal with professors who target disadvantaged people more generally (e.g. through their published work). At the moment, students and staff have to wait for a person-to-person instance of harassment or victimisation before they can complain about the intolerant atmosphere and intimidation that these professors create. If a policy already exists on this issue, it needs to be made publicly available and easily accessible to students and staff.

Ultimately, this issue is about the kind of institutions that Oxford and other universities should be—and how genuine their commitment to equality and diversity really is.

[See here for excerpts from Finnis' public statements and published work mentioned above.]