A college at Cambridge University has canceled an event for young Christian professionals, saying that the values of the organizers, who do not support same-sex marriage, are “not compatible with the values of the college,” the group’s lawyers told the High Court this week.
Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam College has acted unlawfully and breached its duty under the Education Act 1986, argued lawyers of the U.K.-based group Christian Concern, which has run the Wilberforce Academy for over a decade.
The one-week conference is for university students and young professionals to help them “apply their Christian faith in the current culture, and more specifically within their chosen vocations, including in law, politics, education, media, arts and business,” Christian Concern said.
The case was heard Thursday before High Court Judge Sir. Ross Cranston in London, The Telegraph reported, adding that the judge concluded there was an “issue” to be tried but by a lower-ranking county court judge.
A senior member of staff at the college told the group that its booking had been canceled on the grounds that the group was not “inclusive,” did “not believe in gay marriage,” and that Christian Concern’s “general beliefs” were “not compatible with the values of the college.”
The group said the university has gone against its own commitment to free speech.
“In exercising their right to freedom of expression, the university expects its staff, students and visitors to be tolerant of the differing opinions of others, in line with the university’s core value of freedom of expression,” the university says on its website.
It added, “The university also expects its staff, students, and visitors to be tolerant of the diverse identities of others, in line with the university’s core value of freedom from discrimination. While debate and discussion may be robust and challenging, all speakers have a right to be heard when exercising their right to free speech within the law.”
Christian Concern’s legal claim rests on the basis that: “The belief in marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and opposition to same-sex unions, is a religious or philosophical belief protected” by both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Equality Act 2010.
“We are now living in a society where orthodox Christian beliefs appear to be ‘fair game’ for secular activists who have a grip on what is acceptable and what isn’t at the heart of our universities,” Christian Concern’s Chief Executive Andrea Williams said.
“The event was canceled casually and abruptly as though Christian beliefs on marriage are illegal and therefore discrimination of this nature is an acceptable norm. For senior members of a world-renowned college to show such brazen discrimination of Christian beliefs should concern anyone who cares about Christian freedoms and free speech. We are concerned how students at Fitzwilliam College who hold orthodox Christian beliefs might be being intimidated into silence on campus,” Williams added.
“Whatever happens, we will continue to speak of Jesus Christ who was himself an ‘outsider’ and by his words and actions demonstrated his commitment to reaching the marginalized, excluded and vulnerable so that they could discover true hope and everlasting love through him, even sacrificing his own life to do so.”
In June, Worcester College at the University of Oxford said it “misled” students after canceling the Wilberforce Academy for similar reasons last September, The Telegraph noted, adding that Worcester was forced to apologize to students for hosting a Christian Concern eventbefore canceling a second booking after a few students complained.
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