“Oxford college bans ‘harmful’ Christian Union from freshers’ fair” is the headline for the following Telegraph report:
An Oxford College has banned the Christian Union from its freshers’ fair on the grounds that it would be “alienating” for students of other religions, and constitute a “micro-aggression”.
The organiser of Balliol’s fair argued Christianity’s historic use as “an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism” meant that students might feel “unwelcome” in their new college if the Christian Union had a stall.
Freddy Potts, vice-president of Balliol’s Junior Common Room (JCR) committee, said that if a representative from the Christian Union (CU) attended the fair, it could cause “potential harm” to freshers.
Mr Potts, writing on behalf of the JCR’s welfare committee, told the CU representative at Balliol, that their “sole concern is that the presence of the CU alone may alienate incoming students”.
“Historically, 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 said that barring the Christian Union from the fair “may be a way of helping to avoid making any students feel initially unwelcome within Balliol”.
This is appalling and hypocritical on multiple levels; I’ll highlight only one. Note that the Christian Union is being excluded not because of anything specific to that organization, but because of supposed problems with Christianity. The very presence of representatives of the Christian faith at the freshers’ fair is deemed hazardous because it might ‘alienate’ new students and make them feel ‘unwelcome’.
Does it not occur to the JCR committee that some of these incoming students will be Christians, and that the exclusion of the Christian Union for the reasons they give might alienate those Christian students and make them “feel initially unwelcome”?
Just as intolerance is promoted in the name of tolerance, so exclusion is practiced in the name of inclusion. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of ‘secular spaces’!