Action Alert from Christian Concern
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Action Alert

Protect gospel freedom in universities and colleges

Challenge the pitfalls of the Government's new anti-terrorism guidance

The Government is consulting on new official guidance aimed at combatting terrorism.

Unfortunately, whatever the intention of the guidelines, they will have a draconian effect on groups such as Christian Unions (CUs) in universities and colleges. 

Please respond to the government (see below) before 12 noon on Friday (30th Jan) and contact your MP, highlighting the danger to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

'Advance notice of topics to be covered'

Under the proposals, universities and colleges must have policies governing the use of university premises, the management of events on campus and the promotion of off-site activities. Policies would include:
  • "Sufficient notice of booking (generally at least 14 days) to allow for checks to be made and cancellation to take place if necessary."
  • "Advance notice of the content of the event, including an outline of the topics to be discussed and sight of any presentations, footage to be broadcast etc."
Student groups would be expected to "work closely with their institution and co-operate with the institutions' polices." 

So Christian Unions would be expected to submit details in advance, of events and of what speakers planned to present, for vetting by university or college authorities.

This could create a huge administrative burden for Christian Unions many of which have external speakers at least once a week - and even events held off-site (such as a student carol service in a local church) could be covered, if advertised on campus.

'Tolerance of different faiths and beliefs'

However, even more concerning is the risk that biblical teaching could be curtailed, especially where it clashes with current, culturally prominent ideas.

The guidance is designed to combat 'extremism'. The government has defined 'extremism' very broadly as "vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs" (emphasis added).

In the current cultural context, it is likely that some people will claim that biblical teaching about marriage, family and sexual ethics or about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ is 'intolerant of other faiths and beliefs'. Such teaching could therefore be banned or restricted, even within a Christian Union setting.

Christian Unions have been challenged in the past for holding to mainstream biblical teaching (see here for example) - these guidelines will make the situation worse. 
 

Please take action to protect gospel freedom

However well intentioned, we believe this guidance to be a dangerous assault on gospel freedoms. Please therefore:
  • Respond to the government before 12 noon on Friday (30th January). You can read the full consultation here - but you could simply send a short email to preventdutyconsultation@homeoffice.x.gsi.gov.uk, stating that you believe that the requirements for university and college settings are unworkable and represent a major challenge to freedom of religion and expression for groups such as Christian Unions. 
  • Write to your MP expressing your concerns. Explain that you are writing about the government's proposed guidance about the duty placed on universities and colleges under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. Explain that you are concerned about the impact on groups such as Christian Unions and the threat to freedom of religion and expression, as well as the detrimental administrative burden. Find contact details for your MP here.
You may also want to make some of the following points:
  • Whilst Islamic extremism is a significant cause for concern, the proposals threaten to restrict the freedom of CUs to act in line with their beliefs and convictions, despite the fact that Christian teaching has nothing to do with terrorism. 
  • The definition of “extremism” provided by the guidance is too vague and broad, and could be interpreted as including biblical teaching on marriage, sexuality, the beginning and end of life and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.. 
  • Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has objected to the measures for universities, and has called for universities to be excluded from the draft anti-terrorism guidance. 
  • Christian Unions have faced difficulties in the past for seeking to maintain a Christian ethos. Exeter CU was suspended from the student guild, for example, because it required its members to sign a statement of faith whilst Birmingham CU was suspended for refusing to accept non-Christians into leadership positions. Edinburgh CU was challenged for attempting to hold courses on sexual purity.
  • The draft guidance should be re-written to say that it is not applicable to universities, to ensure that the free speech of groups such as CUs is protected.

Please take action today

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