The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised universities for reprimanding Christian Unions over their stance on homosexuality.

Writing in the Times Higher Education Supplement, Dr Rowan Williams accused Student Unions of fearing an “open argument.”

His comments come after Christian 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.

Dr Williams said that Christian views on gay sexual activity were often mistaken for hatred.

He wrote, “The danger in issuing sanctions against a body whose views you disapprove of is that it looks like a fear of open argument.’

He added that students should be willing to accept differing views, “Simply in the fact of being alongside people who are following other academic disciplines, you learn that different people want to know different sorts of things.

“It would be very bad for such a climate if the idea were allowed to gain ground that a student union could be an arbiter of publicly acceptable belief.”

Christian students at Exeter University recently 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.

His statements come after several Christian leaders have spoken out against the new Sexual Orientation Regulations, claiming it is an attack on “freedom of conscience.”