Student leaders at Balliol College banned the university’s Christian Union from its Freshers’ Fair on the grounds that the Christian religion promotes homophobia and neo-colonialism. The decision has been widely attacked, rightly, on the grounds of free speech but not, as it should also have been, on the grounds that it is an act both of discrimination and religious hatred towards Christians and therefore is an actual violation of the law.
What do we suppose would have happened if instead of the Christian Union this had been an Islamic society? Their members would have called the boys in blue quicker than you could say Koran. But what does the Balliol Christian Union do? It declines even to comment. That, of course, is why there is so much marginalisation and persecution of Christians: everyone knows he can get away with it because we never stand up for ourselves.
The college authorities, who would have pontificated long and loudly about “inclusivity” had other groups been treated that way, duck under the nearest cover with the bland statement that they are glad the students sorted it out themselves.
The students did indeed sort it out by passing a motion condemning the action, but what a pity the driving force behind this debacle, Freddy Potts, was not hauled up before the principal for bringing the college into disrepute.
Mr Potts is a clever fellow, being bright enough to win a place not only at Oxford but also on his college’s University Challenge team. Yet he talks patronising nonsense about a Christian presence causing a micro-aggression and potential harm for freshers, as if they were five-year-olds faced with crossing a road. It is a horribly dangerous combination because he will soon go out into the real world, carrying his instincts for suppression with him. Being clever, he will climb, I imagine, quite rapidly, which means he may have authority over others and if he uses it as he has used his power at Oxford then I fear it will be a poor prospect for any believer who crosses his path.
I would not wish to ban an atheist stall from a Freshers’ Fair, nor to deplatform Dawkins. Free speech is as vital to a university as the air the students breathe. Nevertheless, I think Christians should be a bit less meek and mild when it comes to resisting being sidelined. It is all very well praying for your enemies and wishing them no harm, but that does not mean abandoning the right to stand up to them. The Christian Union should have commented, albeit in very charitable terms.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection