Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bristol University’s Christian Union Bans Women Speakers (unless they have their husbands with them) [UPDATED]

I really, really should be getting on with this essay, but this seemed pretty important to share.

In a reflection of the Church of England’s rather depressing recent decision to block the introduction of female bishops, Bristol University’s highly evangelical Christian Union has elected to ban women from speaking at their weekly meetings… unless accompanied by their husbands. One wonders how many female students in the Christian Union are married?

In an email released by The Huffington Post, president Mat Oliver states …

“It is ok for women to teach in any CU setting... However we understand that this is a difficult issue for some and so decided that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU meetings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekend away, or as our main speaker for mission weeks.

But a husband and wife can teach together in these.”

Naturally, the shit has hit the fan following this group’s attempts to cater to the more sexist, misogynistic elements of their number, with condemnation pouring in from numerous societies at Bristol University and Alessandra Berti, the Vice-President for Welfare and Equality at Bristol’s Union issuing a statement saying that…

“We have been made aware of a communication from the University of Bristol Christian Union, and we would like to assure our members and the general public that UBU and the full-time elected officers are investigating the issue further in consultation with the groups involved. In particular we will be making certain that our Equality Policy is properly adhered to in all cases.”

Given the nature of a University’s Equality Policy (I confess I’m basing this on the policy at my Student’s Union, though I suspect they’re not much different), Bristol’s Christian Union, who are affiliated with the Student’s Union and therefore subject to its policies, are likely to be in a lot of bother over this one; such policies outlaw discrimination based on (and I quote) “age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation.”

All in all, it’s a tad depressing that a Christian Union, which are in my experience usually full of extremely reasonable and intelligent students, would choose to enact such a dated and discriminatory policy, but the criticism that’s pouring in already is pretty heartening. They can only get away with this sort of thing if they aren’t held accountable for it, after all.

I’ll do my best to follow this one pretty closely, and keep this post updated if anything new should occur.




I think I may have been too quick to simply summarise this story as 'the shit hitting the fan'; an ungoldy fucking firestorm has erupted in the last few hours, with nationally-distributed newspapers running articles on this story.

It seems that the Christian Union in question, despite advertising Facebook and Twitter as services they utilise and despite their accounts being live just a couple hours ago, have chosen to delete both their Facebook and Twitter pages. To be fair to them, this is likely in the face of an onslaught of criticism and denouncements, with the likes of Richard Dawkins chiming in with his condemnation of their activities.

No official statement from Bristol University's Christian Union in regards to this matter yet, as far as I'm aware, but I suspect they're in for a hell of a day when they wake up to all this.

Fun Quotes about Religion (From Some Freethinkers You May Not Have Heard of Before)

Once again the coursework for this year has buried me in an avalanche of chapter drafts, essays and enough books to crush a man, so updates to this here blog have been… sparse, to put it at it’s mildest. Apologies, guys; I’m almost done with my last essay, so hopefully it’ll be back to more regular updates for me once it’s out the way.

In the meantime I’ve been reading a lot of old freethought books and pamphlets as part of my research for my dissertation, which means I’ve come across some pretty awesome quotes from people in the past who also didn’t put much stock in the whole ‘religion’ thing. As a fun little post to get some updates to this blog going again, I thought I’d share some of them with you.

“I cannot follow you Christians; for you try to crawl through your life upon your knees, while I stride through mine on my feet.”
-         Charles Bradlaugh, 19th Century British Politician, Founder of the National Secular Society (NSS)

 “Evolution not only clearly indicates the true place of man in nature, but it dissipates the prevalent illusion of man’s supreme importance, and the arrogance with which he sets himself apart from the illimitable universe, and exalts himself to the position of its most valuable element.”
-         Ernest Haeckel, ‘The Riddle of the Universe’, German Scientist

“I have a very serious quarrel with the anti-Evolutionists… they are throwing dust in the eyes of the people all over America and England by mixing up two totally different things in the scientific world – quarrels about the method of evolution and quarrels about the fact of evolution.”
-         Joseph McCabe, Former Catholic Priest and Key Figure in the Rationalist Press Association

“It is evident that, for the community and the State, the ethical ideas of the citizens are of the very greatest importance, while a man’s religious dogmas should be entirely his private concern.”
-         Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian Explorer and Nobel Peace Prize Laurette