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Written by Student Rights on 4 December 2012 at 6pm

Christian Union teacher rules continue to discriminate at Bristol (Update: Statements from Bristol University Feminist Society, UBU and BUCU)

UPDATE: It appears that BUCU have now released a statement saying that they "wish to make clear that we will extend speaker invitations to both women and men, to all BUCU events, without exception. BUCU is utterly committed to reflecting the core biblical truth of the fundamental equality of women and men". This however does not make clear the extent that women will be allowed to teach if a male speaker is not present

UPDATE: A statement from the Feminist Society at Bristol University says that:

"The CU’s position seems to be implying that they have reached a compromise on the issue, however it is still hugely discriminatory, deeply offensive and sexist to women. They are suggesting that women have more worth as speakers if speaking with their husband while assuming that all women are interested in marriage, or men for that matter".

A statement has also been released by UBU which says 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. The University of Bristol Students’ Union takes allegations of discrimination very seriously. UBU has an Equality Policy which explains that we prohibit discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation in line with The Equality Act 2010 and as one of our key values of equality and diversity".

A decision by Bristol University Christian Union on Friday to allow women to teach at events only if they are accompanied by their husbands has drawn criticism from students at the university.

Women will not be allowed to teach unaccompanied at events including the weekly meetings, as the main speaker on any ‘away weekends’, or as the main speaker at any ‘mission week’ events.

They will however be allowed to teach in other settings, though it is not clear what this would entail given the list of events they are barred from.

Students at Bristol have said “this makes me so angry! The bible teaches that ‘in Christ there is no male or female’, but all people are equal before God” and that “this is not ok”, whilst another student commented “I'm Catholic and I think thats [sic] obscene”.

Whilst this is an appalling state of affairs, what is worse is that this actually appears to be an improvement on previous policy, under which women were not allowed to teach at all.

This is underlined by the fact that the Christian Union International Secretary, described as “anti” female speakers, has since stepped down in opposition to the changes as he could not support the new decision made by the group.

Whilst the Union should therefore be commended for its attempt to modernise, this compromise still disenfranchises many of its members, and risks fostering an atmosphere in which women are viewed as second-class on campus.

The fact that the Christian Union is part of the Union and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), an umbrella organisation which works with hundreds of similar groups on campuses across the country, also raises questions about how many other Christian Unions are discriminating against female students in this way.

On Monday the Welfare and Equality Officer and Activities Officer from the University of Bristol Student Union (UBU) held a meeting with the Christian Union to discuss these changes but have not commented on the outcome of this meeting yet.

That a university society should still be allowed to dictate who can speak when on the basis of gender is simply unacceptable, and here at Student Rights we hope that UBU will now force the society to accept equal rights for all members.