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Christian Concern told they should pay for own security at Wilberforce Academy in Oxford

Thu 25 Oct 2018
By Cara Bentley

A student body's voted against hosting Christian Concern for their annual Wilberforce Academy, but the college who make the final decision have said Christian Concern will have to pay for their own security. 

The five day conference, which aims to train young Christians in leadership skills for public life, is normally held on a university campus and was meant to be at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford in 2019. 

Other campuses have expressed a desire not to host them in the past because of their views on transgenderism, homosexuality and abortion, such as Exeter college, Cambridge. 

Christian Concern said in a statement: "Although we understand that the college’s Junior Common Room (JCR) has voted to oppose our booking, our correspondence has been directly with the college which has the requisite management and decision making power on these issues.

"Today (25 Oct), the college wrote to inform us that if they were to host our event, they would require us to pay for additional security, due to the likelihood of members of the LMH community – including staff and senior members – wishing to “express vehement disagreement” and engage in “sustained, “very noticeable” protest."

"It seems that the college is afraid that members of its own community would be unable to maintain peaceful protest, bringing into question their commitment to their own college value of ‘fairness – openness and equality’. Surely if students or staff members were to act in violent or aggressive ways towards visitors to the college, then this would be covered under the college’s normal code of conduct for staff and students and the usual disciplinary measures could be taken against such action.  We recognise the value of peaceful protest but the usual procedure for any responsible hosting organisation is to contact the police who, paid for by tax payers, will make an assessment and provide cover.

"We are perplexed as to how the historic Christian view of marriage, gender and sanctity of life would constitute a threat to students’ “physical and mental safety”. We have held 9 other Academies in Oxbridge colleges. Students there have been able to cope and neither we, nor those universities have heard of any harm caused by our events. On the contrary, we have often been told that we were exemplary guests". 

It ends by saying they have written to the college asking what the expected costs are and that they are disappointed the university feels threatened by "an event promoting the same Christian values as Oxford University has so clearly been shaped by". 

A spokesperson for LMH told Premier: "LMH's Governing Body has yet to discuss Christian Concern's request to hold a commercial conference at the college.

"Christian Concern, as an organisation opposed to abortion, Islam, embryo research and the rights of LGTBQ+ people, itself indulges in forms of direction action and protest. It seemed courteous to alert the organisers that they might expect similar forms of protest, both internal and external. 

"Before considering the request for a commercial booking the College, quite reasonably, sought an undertaking that Christian Concern should indemnify LMH for additional security costs and - in accordance with Oxford University policies - sought an assurance that the organisation would agree to engage in meaningful "evidence, questioning and argument."  We look forward to receiving its response."

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