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Christian Union in homophobia dispute

A Christian Union awareness event caused controversy last week after a guest speaker made allegedly homophobic comments. The event, held in the Union bar on 6 February, aimed to raise awareness of Christianity and allow students to discuss faith with members of the society.

Christian Union

Onlookers claim one of the speakers deviated from the agreed topic of his speech and condemned gay marriage. This resulted in a number of informal and formal complaints from bar patrons who had to listen to the speaker’s views even though they were not attending the event, as the speaker was using a microphone.

The Union’s LGBT+ officer who dealt with student complaints over the incident, met with UEA Christian Union shortly after to discuss the issue. The society issued an almost immediate apology for any offence caused.

He said that the meeting helped to create a “positive understanding” between UEA Pride society and UEA Christian Union, and the societies are now working together to host a film event about faith and sexuality. Nick Jones, president of UEA Christian Union, said: “From our point of view the meeting was incredibly positive. We look forward to continuing to build good relationships with the Union and LGBT+ community.”

He stated that on issues of faith such as same-sex marriage, there is potential for a variety of individual religious beliefs and as such the society does not take any particular stance on the subject. “We believe that the example of Jesus was to love and respect every person, regardless of whether he agreed with their opinions, and we strongly encourage any member of the CU to do the same.”

He continued: “we would like apologise to anyone who has felt unwelcome or judged at any of our meetings or events.”

Jones also said that the speaker at the event discussed same-sex marriage “during a question and answer session intended to be related to the topic spoken on.” He said that the question was unrelated and unexpected, so the society “had not briefed the speaker on how to respond. In hindsight we would have asked our speaker not to answer questions on this issue before the event. We are sorry if anyone in the bar felt that this view was forced upon them. We very much respect people’s right to choose not to listen, and will endeavour to do better at this in the future.”

Union regulation does not currently require guests to have prior permission to speak at public bar events.

A Union Councillor plans to submit a new policy for review at Union Council which would require societies to notify the Union about events with guest speakers, and would need them to host events speaking speakers or debates in a private location.

19/02/2013

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