Saturday, January 06, 2007

Christian students in legal battle

Cranmer drew the attention of his readers to the plight of Christians in a number of universities a few months ago, noting that little has changed since believers were warned by the Lord that they would be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. There has apparently been no internal resolution of the grievance of Evangelical Christian Union at Exeter University, which has been suspended from membership of the Guild of Students, and had its bank account frozen. They have therefore decided to embark on the lengthy and expensive litigious route. It is now for a judge to decide whether or not theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

According to the BBC, this is the first case of religious discrimination to go to law in the education world. Cranmer finds their memory faulty, recalling the relatively recent case brought by a Muslim girl against her school over its uniform policy which was deemed to hinder her freedom to express her religion. The judgement went in the girl’s favour, though the ruling was not at all clear in what should be expected of schools. It states that schools have a right to uniform policies, but also that students have a right to disregard them.

The judgement in the case of the Exeter Martyrs could be ground-breaking. If there were to be a full judicial review, they are likely to refer to Section 13 of the Human Rights Act which specifically protects religious organisations, permitting them to believe and practise as their orthodoxy demands. Yet the Act also demands equality of access to such clubs by those who may not believe in or adhere to such orthodoxy; one may no longer discriminate on the grounds of gender, sexuality, or religious belief. And yet alongside the prohibition of discrimination is the defence of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the freedom of expression, and the freedom of assembly and association. For a Christian Union - indeed, for any Christian group - the regulations of koinonia (communion, coming together, fellowship) are determined by Scripture, and the believer is exhorted to examine his or her own heart in the participation thereof. If koinonia be in any sense assembly or association, it must be permitted the freedom to manifest itself in accordance with Christian teachings and traditions.

It is therefore highly significant that a Court will be faced with a clash of competing equalities, and will be asked to determine which group is the more equal. It is inconceivable to Cranmer that a Christian group will be forced to permit those who lead it to be deviant from its doctrinal statement of faith. The demand is no different from a Christian minister having to subscribe to the orthodoxy of the Nicene Creed. Atheists are not (yet) queuing up to be ministers of religion, but the courts are not likely to force churches to permit them to lead their organisations.

Cranmer has two final thoughts:

Firstly, unless the Guild of Students ceases the harassment of Christians and the hindrance of their freedom of association, they should be referred to the Charities Commission.

Secondly, it might be considered that the CU is possibly the only organisation on campus that exists primarily for the benefit of its non-members…


Anonymous Voyager said...

THis has very interesting implications because it will go to the Grand Chambre in Strasbourg. Unless there is precedent set at the ECHR then The High Court here is on weak ground because the implications are Europe-wide. I should hope that the Catholic Church, the Jews, the Muslims, and the Protestant Churches are watching and supporting this case as amici curiae.

This is a major issue and Britain's lack of a Written Constitution makes this issue reliant at a European level on the German Constitition and the safeguards in Written cOnstitutions in EU Courts.

The problem in England specifically is that no document defines rights so every case goes back to first principles such as The Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement - at which time NO denomination apart from the Church of England in its Calvinist Protestant form was permitted in Universities or Government or the Law.

In a real sense the question should be whether the Muslim Schools are allowed to make the Shaahada the basis of entrance to a Muslim School...............this case is a beauty and should attract good advocates from around Europe

6 January 2007 at 11:43  
Anonymous Oiznop said...

The advocate in this case is one Paul Diamond QC. An eminent Christian and an expert in religious liberties. It was he who helped to win the BA cross case, so the 'Exeter martyrs' are in good hands.

6 January 2007 at 15:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace,

I thought you might rather enjoy this article at, of all places, the Guardian.

Like your Grace, the author sheds new light on familiar material with engaging style and thought-provoking metaphor.


6 January 2007 at 23:51  
Anonymous Voyager said...

What's the update on Nadia Eweida's case ?

7 January 2007 at 09:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may like to have a look at the latest most interactive politics website that thinks direct democracy is the surest way of getting to a Minimum State and the best way of staying there.

It has already been featured in the Freedom Association and Better Off Out website links.

Do come and see!

7 January 2007 at 09:34  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Does read a bit like the inscription on Sauron's Ring doesn't it ?

7 January 2007 at 11:33  
Anonymous Ralph, A Christian at Exeter University said...

Your Grace,

Could I remind you that at Exeter the case is not one of a Christian Union being criticised for excluding non-Christians, but one of a Christian Union being criticised for excluding non-Evangelical-Christians.

If this case were reversed and Catholic or Orthodox groups went around setting up "Christian Unions" in universities from which they banned Protestants from full participation, groups like the UCCF would be up in arms, and rightly so.

How then does it constitute "harassment" when a Guild tells a Christian Union that it cannot ban Catholic or Orthodox Christians from its committee?

8 January 2007 at 11:04  
Anonymous Voyager said...

but one of a Christian Union being criticised for excluding non-Evangelical-Christians.

There are others then ?

I rather like Catholic Communion with Lutherans and Calvinists present but it happens oh so rarely

8 January 2007 at 11:33  
Anonymous Ralph said...

"There are others then ?"

Yes, a very great many.

8 January 2007 at 11:44  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Ralph,

His Grace dealt with this very point in his previous post on the subject, also raised by 'a Christian' at Exeter University.

No-one owns the epithet 'Christian', and it is certainly not for an external, secular body to judge who does, and which groups should be forced to change their nomenclature.

His Grace might assert that a Catholic Christian Union is a total nonsense, not least because 'Catholic' simply means 'universal', and the term 'Christian' already embraces this concept. Evangelicals would have every right to object, because Roman Catholic universality precludes their particular brand of the faith, and it is not therefore 'universal'.

But even if His Grace were to believe this, it is not for him to force the name change.

As far as he is concerned, there should be as many Christian Unions on campus as there are Christian denominations, and they should be free to call themselves exactly as they wish. And then the market should determine which survive and which die.

8 January 2007 at 15:46  

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