An Oxford University college has banned a Christian student group from setting up a booth at a freshman fair amid fears that those students’ presence would “alienate” incoming students who practice other religions.
Leaders of the student union at Balliol College blocked the Christian Union (CU) from attending the event after Frederick Potts, vice-president of the student body, told them he wanted a “secular space” and blasted CU’s recruitment methods, Times of London reported.
“We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers fair but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford,” Potts wrote in an email to the group.
“Christianity’s influence on many marginalised 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,” he added.
Potts went on to declare that “many students, especially students of colour and of other faiths, may already feel alienated and vulnerable in Oxford, a university with a reputation for racism and lack of diversity, and a city with barely any appropriate places of worship for non-Christians.”
After pressure from CU and other religious organizations – who threatened to boycott the event – event organizers allowed the creation of a “multi-faith” stall that would allow students of different religions to display brochures.
Other leaders of the college’s student body fought back against the gan, blasting it as a “violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom.”
Despite the heated conflict between various students, a Balliol College spokesperson told The Telegraph that the school is happy to see them working things out.
“We are pleased to see that the students themselves have now resolved this matter,” the spokesperson said. “Following last night’s JCR (Junior Common Room) motion, the Christian Union will be offered a stall at future freshers’ fairs.”