Evangelical students reject mediation, choose court battle

By staff writers
8 Jan 2007

Evangelical students at Exeter University have rejected an offer of mediation and have chosen to take legal action against their Student Guild and University.

The Executive Committee of the Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union issued proceedings on 5th January in the High Court seeking a Judicial Review of the decision to suspend the Christian Union from the Guild of Students.

A Christian student at Exeter University from the Orthodox tradition complained that he was unable to become involved in the CU because of the narrowness of its statement of faith. At the request of the Christian student a name change was proposed and voted on by the student body. The CU had to change its name to the more specific ‘Evangelical Christian Union.’

A referendum amongst the students was subsequently held to determine whether the Evangelical Christian Union should be able to reverse the name change. The CU lost the referendum.

In October the Evangelical Christian Union's accounts were temporarily frozen, and their privileges as a Guild society removed, pending a full review into the society's Equal Opportunities policy. The Evangelical CU can still use the Guild’s rooms but will be charged the standard rate for rooms or facilities within the Guild's jurisdiction.

The legal action now being taken by the Evangelical group follows a report by the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, which proposed mediation between Christians and Students' Unions, by university chaplains or trained mediators.

The proposals were publicly backed by the National Union of Students (NUS).

The Exeter University Guild had also suggested to the CU that mediation and negotiation might be a way forward to resolve the dispute.

But Ben Martin, a member of the Evangelical Christian Union committee in Exeter said: "there is nothing to mediate or negotiate about".

He said that only if the Guild reversed its decision and reinstated the CU as a full society, then he and others would meet with the Guild and look afresh at how its Equal Opportunities policies related to religious societies.

The Evangelical Christian Union expects a first hearing of the case in the High Court in London around March or April.

You can read Ekklesia's report on Christian Unions at: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/united_we_stand_report.pdf

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