Oxford College Backtracks From Banning ‘Harmful’ Christian Union From Freshers’ Fair

October 10, 2017 17:07, Last Updated: October 13, 2017 13:35
By Jane Gray, Epoch Times

Student leaders at a University of Oxford college banned the Christian Union from attending its freshers’ fair, but leaders backtracked on the decision after a backlash from students, reports said.

Student leaders at Balliol College banned the Christian Union from attending its freshers’ fair over fears it might “harm” or “alienate” new students.

Frederick Potts, vice president of the Junior Common Room (JCR) committee, the college’s student body, wrote in a leaked email that Christianity’s historic influence has been used as an excuse for “homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism”, according to Oxford’s student newspaper, Cherwell.

Balliol College has its own chapel. (“Balliol College chapel, Oxford” by Pjposullivan1/Flickr [CC BY-SA-2.0 (ept.ms/2utDIe9)])
After the discussions, Potts who was part of Balliol’s University Challenge team, granted the Christian Union a single multifaith stall, but on the condition that no representative of the society was manning it.

A Facebook post by JCR President Hubert Au showed that a single multifaith stall eventually went ahead with “representation” from four Christian groups, the report said, and the Balliol Christian Union refused to attend the fair after the ban.

Other students within the college criticised the ban, describing it as “a violation of free speech.”

Students passed a motion prohibiting the JCR from barring any official religious societies from participation in the Balliol freshers’ fair in the future, the newspaper report said.

A woman cycles past Balliol College in Oxford city centre. Balliol College was founded in around 1263. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The Rev Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, provided a statement to The Epoch Times on the controversy.

“Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental principle that underpins our country and its great institutions and universities,” he said. “Christian Unions represent some of the largest student-led organisations in many universities across the country, and to exclude them in this way is to misunderstand the nature of debate and dialogue and at odds with the kind of society we are all seeking to promote.”

A spokesperson from the college confirmed that the decision was reversed, with the student group promising to allow religious groups at future fairs.

“We are pleased to see that the students themselves have now resolved this matter. Following [a] JCR motion the Christian Union will be offered a stall at future freshers’ fairs. Balliol is a tolerant, friendly college where students of all faiths and none are free to worship and express their beliefs openly,” the spokesperson said, per The Tablet.

A cyclist travels past the Radcliffe Camera building in Oxford city centre. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)