I post this for your information and for your prayers:
Issued On Behalf of Birmingham University Evangelical Christian Union
For Immediate Release
24 January 2006
BIRMINGHAM UNIVERSITY CHRISTIAN UNION BANNED, AND ACCOUNTS FROZEN
BIRMINGHAM University's Evangelical Christian Union has been banned from using Student Union Guild rooms and facilities, and has had its bank accounts frozen by Guild authorities after refusing to make politically-correct changes to their charitable constitution on religious grounds.
The Students Union at Birmingham University wanted to impose one of their own leaders onto the CU executive, open membership to people of all faiths and beliefs, and instructed the Christian fellowship to change its constitution. The Guild raised concern at the words "men" and "women", as it could be seen as excluding transsexual/transgender persons.
When the CU tried to book rooms with the Guild after the summer break for normal CU activities, they were told the Guild couldn't accommodate them, because the CU was involved in too many activities.
Then, when Christians in Sport (whose high profile supporters include Olympic Gold Medallist Jonathan Edwards) attempted to book a room in the CU's name, the Guild insisted on checking the CUs constitution. The Guild objected to many clauses, even though the constitution has been consistent for many years, and its polices are not a new issue for the Guild. The CU has been operating at Birmingham University for the past 76 years, and currently has well over a hundred people attending the CU's meetings.
Andy Weatherley, CU staff worker in Birmingham, said: "The Guild insists the CU constitution must be amended to include 'mandatory clauses', insisting more control and more intrusion by the Guild and open membership to those who would not call themselves Christians.
"Christian Unions should be permitted to restrict membership to only those people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, and that leadership positions are also restricted to the same criteria and the beliefs outlined in the University and College's Christian Fellowship Doctrinal Basis. It is a fundamental right of any organisation to be able to include in its membership only those who abide by the ethos and focus of the organisation. We believe this to be true for all organizations within the Student Union, not just religious or ethnic ones. We are not a special interest group there to attract people with similar interest but a Union of Christians. Whilst our meetings are open to all people, believers and unbelievers when it come to being a voting member or leader of the Christian Union we feel it is perfectly respectable to restrict access to people who call themselves Christians.
The Vice Chancellors report "Extremism and intolerance on Campus", advises Universities "some clubs of societies to have restricted eligibility, say on religious or nationality grounds. Otherwise, it could be open to a group hostile to the club or society to join and take it over in a way that would be quite wrong. But we urge care in this area."
Despite the CU agreeing to consider some re-drafting of their constitution and to offer a re-draft to the Guild at their mid-January meeting, the CU were suspended from booking rooms for a week-long Christian Awareness event at the end of January named "Truth". The Guild has de-recognised the Christian Union and frozen its bank account, including money donated by the public and churches to be used for Christian work in the university. The "Truth" week will only now go ahead because of the good grace offered by the university allowing the CU to place a marquee on a central location on campus.
Birmingham Christian Union has instructed solicitors, who have advised the Guild that unless funds are returned, and a democratic way forward can be found, they will be forced to issue court proceedings against them.
Birmingham University Christian Union is affiliated to UCCF, which has over 77 years experience of working with Christians at universities and colleges of higher and further education throughout the UK.
Pod Bhogal, its communications director said: "In all our years of working with hundreds of HE establishments, this action by Birmingham's Guild is unique. We support the Birmingham CU 100 per cent and will back them in standing up for their rights, and the democratic rights of every student grouping in the university to be able to constitute themselves and to pursue any lawful aims and objectives in a free society. We would not dream of telling a Muslim group or a political society how to elect their leaders or who could or could not become a member, that's entirely a matter to them, based on their own faith principles, the same applies to a CU."
For further information:
Andy Weatherley, UCCF Staff Worker: 0121 475 0972; 07788155885 (mobile)
Pod Bhogal (UCCF Communications Director) 0116 204 7684; 07769 688073 (mobile).
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