Christian Unions and other “genuine” and “well-intentioned” university groups will not be caught by changes to ‘anti-terror’ plans, Home Secretary Theresa May has stated.
Widespread concerns have been raised that the plans would threaten free speech, with university leaders, Christian charity UCCF and senior lawyers all speaking out.
However, last week the Home Secretary gave her assurance that the final version of guidance on the issue will not impede the work of CUs.
She was responding to Conservative MP Robert Neill who asked for assurance that the final guidance “does not, albeit inadvertently, impede the work of genuine, benign and well-intentioned student bodies such as Christian Unions and other groups that are active within our universities?”
Mrs May, speaking in the House of Commons, commented: “I can give my honourable Friend that assurance.
“There is no intention to make any impact on the sort of benign organisation to which he refers.”
The Home Secretary later said that another contentious proposal – that all campus speakers must submit their speeches weeks in advance – would be clarified as “not necessary” in the final version of the guidance.
The Christian Institute welcomed the Home Secretary’s comments but said the issue was not yet over.
Deputy Director for Public Affairs Simon Calvert said: “CI supporters prayed about this issue, responded to the consultation on the guidance and contacted their MPs, and now we are seeing a positive response from the Government.
“We will continue to watch developments and analyse the final guidance to see that the Government follows through and that our concerns are properly addressed.”
Last month UCCF, which works with students to spread the message of Jesus Christ, warned that under the plans CU talks and events could be censored or banned by critics.
UCCF’s Director, Revd Richard Cunningham, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Revd John Lenton, said the guidelines could “easily be used by secular or religious people within our universities” to curb CUs.
Noting that the foundational tenets of the Christian faith “have nothing to do with terrorism”, the UCCF leaders asked “what possible justification can there be for jeopardising time-honoured freedoms in an attempt to counter Islamist threats?”