[holding answer 22 February 2007]: I understand that there are disputes between the Christian Union and the students’ union in a very few universities; that the issues in dispute vary; and that they do not involve other Christian groups on campus. For these reasons, I do not believe that these very few cases represent deliberate or general discrimination against Christians.
Because there are different issues in each case it is important that these disputes are settled locally. I understand that the Christian think tank Ekklesia has studied these disputes and in its report has recommended internal mediation (for example through university chaplaincies) as a way forward. I think this is a helpful suggestion and is preferable to going to law.
We believe that legitimate faith groups on campus should be affiliated with the students’ union provided that they are operating within the law and the students’ union framework. Students’ unions should be inclusive.
The Education Act 1994 requires university governing bodies to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure the student union operates in a fair and democratic manner. I would expect them to do so in these cases or any others. It is important that universities maintain and support freedom of speech within the law.