Christian Union talks and events could be censored or banned by critics under new ‘anti-terror’ plans, national charity UCCF has warned.
Adding their voice to concerns about the proposals, UCCF, which works with students to spread the message of Jesus Christ, said the new proposals “open the door” to curbs on free speech.
UCCF spoke out as more than 20 university leaders wrote to a national newspaper with ‘profound concerns’ about the Government’s plans.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex speaks to the BBC about the letter to The Times, broadcast 28 January 2015
Under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, university societies would be forced to hand over presentations to be vetted.
They would also have to submit names of speakers to be checked at least two weeks in advance, and risk their events being cancelled by university authorities.
In a letter published on its website, UCCF’s Director, Revd Richard Cunningham, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Revd John Lenton, said they had “very real concerns”.
“Such broad guidelines could easily be used by secular or religious people within our universities as an opportunity to censor or even ban any aspects of a CU’s programme they happen not to like or simply disagree with”, they commented.
Noting that the foundational tenets of the Christian faith “have nothing to do with terrorism”, they ask “what possible justification can there be for jeopardising time-honoured freedoms in an attempt to counter Islamist threats?”
They added that rather than promoting free speech and tolerance, “the proposals as they stand open the door to the curtailment of freedom of speech and the facilitation of intolerance”.
Revd Cunningham and Revd Lenton concluded: “We greatly appreciate your prayerful support in this serious matter.”
Their comments came as 24 university leaders, including Vice-Chancellors and Chancellors, wrote to The Times warning that the plans may be “counterproductive, causing mistrust and alienation”.
The signatories, who include representatives from the universities of Durham, East Anglia and the LSE, say their institutions must continue to be independent from the Government.
“The new statutory duty should not apply to universities and they should be exempt, as proposed for the security services and judicial bodies.
“This would safeguard the unique status of universities as places where lawful ideas can be voiced and debated without fear of reprisal”, they said.