Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Exeter Christian Union: victory


From Christian Concern for Our Nation: XETER University’s Christian Union won a crucial vote on Friday 7th December 2007 in their highly-publicised human rights battle with the campus Students’ Guild and University authorities. On 7th December 2007, their prolonged battle with the University took a substantial step forward when the CU won a democratic student vote at an Emergency General Meeting of the Students’ Guild at which the CU were invited by the Guild to present a motion allowing them to
require all officers and members of the CU to sign a statement of belief.

On January 5th 2007, Ben Martin, a member of the Christian Union, filed papers
at the High Court following the suspension of the 50-year-old Christian Union
(CU) from the official list of student societies on campus, and the freezing of
its Student Union bank account. The CU had also been banned from free use of
Students’ Guild premises, and from advertising events within Guild facilities,
because the Students’ Guild claimed the CU constitution and activities did not
conform to its Equal Opportunities standards.

Following detailed negotiations between the CU, the Guild and the University,
and between the National Union of Students and the Universities and Colleges
Christian Unions (UCCF), and under the threat of High Court action, the CU have
now secured:-

An active Student Union bank account;
Re-listing on the Guild’s official list of societies; and
Permission to use and advertise CU events on Guild/campus premises.

At 12-noon on Friday 7th December, the Student body voted by 122 to 47 that the
relationship between the CU and Student Guild should reflect proposed new
guidelines on religious societies as agreed between the National Union of
Students and UCCF, which would allow the CU to ask officers and members to sign
up to the aims and beliefs of the society, whilst all meetings and events
remain open to all students at Exeter University.

Commenting on the vote, Ben Martin, who has since left the university, said:
“This continues to be a long and hard fight for the rights of Christian
students to assemble and form as a group of fellow believers under a lawful
constitution. We support the rights of any student on campus to assemble and
discuss/debate any topic with fellow students in what is a free society. This
all began 18 months ago when one student, after 50 years of the CU being on
campus, complained that he did not feel able to sign up to our statement of
belief. We pray now the Guild will ratify the vote as is right and proper and
we will be able to put this all behind us”

Ross Tranter, current CU president added: “The whole CU is pleased with this
vote and we hope now that the Guild will ratify the vote so that we may move
forward from this matter. We are simply looking forward to getting on with our
academic studies and to developing the work of the CU as a well-established,
successful and fully recognised society on campus. We hope the Guild will
recognise this important vote and not force us to proceed with legal action”

Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, commented “This vote is
an important step forward towards a resolution in this case. It is a victory
for common sense, and a signal to the Guild on how students feel about a truly
diverse and equal agenda where freedom of religion and freedom of association
can be fully respected and integrated on campus. Christian students in Exeter
are showing courage and leadership beyond their years and fighting for these
great principles of a truly free and democratic society. Universities are the
places where the leaders of tomorrow are shaped and moulded, and it is
heartening to see Christian students claiming these important principles as
their own for the benefit of freedom for all.”

‘The Legal Rights of Student Christian Unions’, by Julian Rivers is a paper that
rebuts Mark Shaw QC’s Adjudication between the Christian Union and the Student


Anonymous said...

"The purpose of this blog is to facilitate protests by faithful Catholics against attacks on the Church and morality in the United Kingdom."

Then why do you continue to post biased media reports which undermine the fight of Catholics to gain equal recognition on as Christians at Exeter University?

Webmaster said...

Well, I thought the story was interesting. Sounds like you are interested too. If you've got a different angle which I ought to cover tell us about it. I've said this before, if you're the same person. Stop carping from the sidelines and give us the information.

Ralph said...

I would have thought anonymous' angle was fairly obvious after the previous debates on this issue: the "right" the society has just "won" is the right to discriminate against Catholics.

When they talk about the "Christian Union" they are talking about a society which Catholics are not allowed to join. When they talk about "the rights of Christian
students to assemble and form as a group of fellow believers" they mean the right to exclude any Catholics who may wish to join that group.

The simple fact of the matter is that the "victory" they are claiming is to have the part of the Guild constitution which prevents discrimination on the basis of faith scrapped.

It is not in the interest of Catholic students at the university to allow people to discriminate against religious groups, and all of the Catholics I know oppose this change.

Webmaster said...

Well, in that case we've had this conversation before. The right to form an exclusively Catholic group, based on the right of free association, may not be one which Catholic students in Exeter want to exercise at the moment, but as a matter of principle is is extremely important. All Catholic institutions up until very recent times were based on 'discrimination against religious groups', if you want to put it like that.

Ralph said...

"The right to form an exclusively Catholic group, based on the right of free association, may not be one which Catholic students in Exeter want to exercise at the moment, but as a matter of principle is is extremely important."

But as a matter of principle it is also completely irrelevant. The right of free association has not been denied to anyone. What the ECU is fighting against is the right of an organisation, the Guild, to set its own membership rules (and ironically it is doing so [i]so that it can set its own membership rules[/i]).

If it's denying an independent organisation the right to set its own membership rules you are worried about then the attempt by the ECU to deny the Guild this right truly is setting a dangerous precedent.

If the Guild is not allowed to set its own membership rules then for how much longer do you suppose Catholic organisations will be able to?

Webmaster said...

That's an interesting argument. However, as you know the Students' Guild is not a membership organisation like an ordinary student society. Students are enrolled whether they like it or not; their dues are deducted from their fees. In addition, it completely dominates the channels by which student societies can recruit members and advertise events, and has control over most or all of the venues societies use for meetings. Given its near-monopolistic position in this marketplace, claims that it should be free to freeze out anyone not coming up to its politically correct standards don't cut any ice. It is obliged, like other near-monopolies, to behave in light of the public interest rather than its own preferences.

Ralph said...

"It is obliged, like other near-monopolies, to behave in light of the public interest rather than its own preferences."

In what way can exactly the same not be said of the Christian Union, and their monopoly as The Christian Union on campus?

Surely, given their near-monopoly on Christianity, they also have an obligation to behave in light of the public interest rather than their own preferences. Or is this a case of "one rule for US, another rule for THEM"?

Webmaster said...

But that's the whole point: the CU doesn't have a monopoly on anything, except (like every group) its own name. Anyone can set up a Catholic or Christian group.

Ralph said...

And anyone can set up any society they like outside the Guild, so by that reasoning the Guild doesn't have any sort of monopoly. You seem to be trying to have your cake and eat it.

The simple fact is that the CU brand gives them an automatic monopoly over Christianity on most campuses, and press releases like this serve one purpose only; the protection and further promotion of that brand.

The very fact that they only need to issue a press release and a Catholic Blogger will immediately support their position without stopping to consider what the Catholics at the university in question might think of the situation only goes to show how much of a monopoly they really have. Yes anyone can set up a Catholic or Christian group, but only the CU has an international Evangelical pressure group supporting their agenda, and only the CU has its own legal wing dedicated to fighting anyone who tries to break their monopoly.

Webmaster said...

Why are you so frightened of the CU 'brand'? Stop whinging about it and set up an alternative along the lines you want - rather than trying to strong-arm them into changing themselves into what you want them to be.

This is so pathetic. You've clearly lost the ability to see the arguments clearly, or even to read my comments properly. I'm not carrying on this debate any further.

Roger Pearse said...

This news item is very good news indeed. All of us know of Catholic groups that have been targetted under similar pretexts; this agreement removes one weapon that those who hate Catholics (and indeed Christians of all sorts, as a rule) may use to enforce conformity.

The comments by 'Ralph' seem remarkably intolerant. If someone founds a group called "The One True Church" then let them.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen