The Times. UK January 25, 2006
Students ban Christians in row over gays
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
A UNIVERSITY Christian Union has been suspended and had its bank account frozen after refusing to open its membership to people of all religions.
The Christian Union, an evangelical student organisation, has instructed lawyers and is threatening court proceedings against the Birmingham Guild of Students.
The Birmingham Christian Union has more than 100 members who attend meetings regularly and has been functioning at the university for 76 years.
Members claim the actions have been taken against them after they refused on religious grounds to make politically correct changes to their charitable constitution, including explicitly mentioning people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.
The Christian Union was advised that the use of the words men and women in the constitution were causing concern because they could be seen as excluding transsexual and transgendered people.
Difficulties arose after the organisation Christians in Sport, whose supporters include Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic gold medallist, attempted to book a room in the name of the Christian Union. After checking the unions constitution, the Guild of Students objected to a number of clauses.
Andy Weatherley, Christian Union staff worker in Birmingham, said: The guild insists the Christian Union constitution must be amended to include mandatory clauses, insisting on more control by the guild and open membership to those who would not call themselves Christians.
At a recent guild meeting Matthew Crouch, of the Christian Union, appealed against derecognition. He said: All guild members can attend our meeting but only members can vote, but Stuart Mathers, a guild vice-president, said that all student groups have to follow guild council policy. Birmingham University Christian Union is affiliated to the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship. Pod Bhogal, its communications director, said: We support the Birmingham Christian Union. We would not dream of telling a Muslim group or a political society how to elect their leaders or who could or could not become a member. The same applies to a Christian Union.
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