Senior Bishops of the Church of England, and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, have spoken out against “intolerant and unlawful” actions by several universities after a number of Christian Unions (CU) have been banned from campuses.
Unions in Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh have been prohibited from using university faculties and in some cases from being recognised as a club because of alleged discrimination towards non-Christians and gay people.
In a letter to The Times clergymen said: “(Christian students) are facing considerable opposition and discrimination in violation of their rights of freedom of expression, freedom of belief and freedom of association.”
The letter was signed by the Anglican bishops of Winchester, Rochester, Chester, Southwell and Nottingham, Lichfield, Dover and Willesden, along with the Roman Catholic church’s lead Bishop on Higher Education, and with signatories from academics and representatives from national Christian organisations.
Together they claim the Student Guilds/Associations, in Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh in particular, have changed their anti-discrimination provisions to discriminate against Christian students.
They say the action by the Guilds is “intolerant and unlawful, and that the Christian Unions currently suspended should be re-instated with full student union society rights.”
Last Monday, Christian students at Exeter University served a Letter before Action upon the university’s Registrar, and on the Student Guild after it was suspended for being too exclusive.
The letter stated that unless the CU was fully reinstated with full student society rights within 14 days, legal action would be taken against the University, the Guild and Guild officers personally, under the Human Rights Act, and that substantial damages would be claimed against them.
At Edinburgh University, a course looking at orthodox Biblical teaching on relationship, sex and marriage has been banned from being taught on campus because it recommended literature on “ex-gay” therapy.
The Students’ Association claimed the Pure course was homophobic, and breached the SA’s and the universities anti- discrimination policies.
CU representatives are due to meet the vice-chancellor this week and a further legal letter is likely to be served.