An Oxford University student union reportedly barred the Christian Union from setting up a stall at a college freshers’ fair, with a representative calling Christianity “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism.”
Oxford University student newspaper Cherwell reported on Sunday of a leaked email chain, which reveals that the incident involving Christian Union took place at Balliol College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England.
Student union Vice President Freddy Potts reportedly said:
“We recognize the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the Fresher’s Fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.
“Christianity’s influence on many marginalized communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”
College fair organizers further argued that as a “secular space,” no individual faith should be monopolized at the fair.
The event organizers eventually allowed a shared multi-faith stall with leaflets to stand at the fair, but barred representatives of religious groups from participating.
Students have hit back against the decision, however, and passed a motion unanimously on Sunday, calling it a “violation of free speech and religious freedom.”
“The Balliol JCR (student union) should not make judgement regarding the legitimacy of faith groups or religious expression,” the motion read.
The motion further blocks the student union from barring official religious societies from participating at future Fresher’s fairs.
Andrea Williams, chief executive at Christian Concern who often speaks out against discrimination of Christians in U.K. society, told Mail Online:
“The leading institution in the world founded on Christian principles is forgetting its great history. In Christianity there has been freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom to believe and manifest belief.
“It is the student union that is rewriting history and using cheap smears to spread falsehoods with regards to Christianity.”
Several surveys over the past year have documented the continued decline of Christianity in the U.K. The Benedict XVI Center for Religion and Society reported in May that the U.K.’s nonreligious population is now bigger than its combined Christian one.
What is more, 26 believers were found to be abandoning the faith for every atheist or agnostic who decides to become a Christian.
“The rise of the nonreligious is arguably the story of British religious history over the past half-century,” said Stephen Bullivant, professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion and director of the Benedict XVI Center.
Survey data from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes in September further found that the number of British people with no religion has hit the highest ever levels, and now makes up 53 percent of the population.
The data also found that 71 percent of young people aged 18–24 said that they have no religion.
“This increase follows the long-term trend of more and more of us not being religious. The differences by age are stark and with so many younger people not having a religion it’s hard to see this change abating any time soon,” said Roger Harding, head of public attitudes at the National Center for Social Research.
“The falls in those belonging to the Church of England are the most notable, but these figures should cause all religious leaders to pause for thought.”