Draft ‘anti-terror’ guidance that could censor Christian Unions at universities needs to be replaced, the Director of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) has said.
Revd Richard Cunningham, who leads the national Christian student group, welcomed a pledge from Home Secretary Theresa May to amend the draft guidelines because he said the plans are “unwieldy and unworkable”.
Last month Theresa May said the final guidance would not “make any impact” on Christian Unions and other “genuine, benign and well-intentioned student bodies”.
Later, news of a row within the Coalition Government emerged about what exactly would feature in the final guidance.
The draft guidelines said that student societies should hand over external speakers’ presentations to university authorities for vetting at least two weeks in advance.
Revd Cunningham said it would be unrealistic to expect Christian Unions to “extract outlines of talks, presentations and so on from busy Christian ministers two weeks ahead of an event”.
He asked, “what possible justification could there be for requiring such an outline” when universities should “be focussed on preventing students from being radicalised by Islamist extremists?”
He said he believed that the only people who would be interested in “screening and censoring the outline of a visiting Christian speaker” would be those who want to, “for reasons of malice or mischief, take issue with those elements of Christianity they happen to dislike or disagree with”.
“The Prevent guidelines as they stand are unwieldy and unworkable, and therefore will divert already limited university resources away from protecting vulnerable students from being radicalised”, he added.
Revd Cunningham said “real and actual risk to students” should be used in an “evidence-based system” for assessing risks associated with events on campus. This, he said, should replace the current proposals.
The Prevent guidelines accompany the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act which received Royal Assent in February.