Andrea Williams from the Lawyers Christian Fellowship updates us on a number of current significant cases, receiving extensive media coverage, involving Christians.
In May of this year, Exeter Christian Union was forced to change its name to the 'Evangelical Christian Union', following pressure from the Student's Union, known as the Guild of Students. It was contended that the Christian Union was demonstrating cultish exclusivity, and so should attract the label 'evangelical' to describe its literal interpretation of biblical teaching. Such literal teaching was essentially being deemed to attract a label suggesting fundamentalism. This development came after one student approached the Guild and stated that the Christian Union was not accepting of all Christians. The Christian Union had retained its name for some fifty years previous to this. A letter was subsequently written in the student newspaper. The Guild stated that another person must be found to 'second' a motion changing the name from 'CU' to 'ECU'. An Annual General Meeting was held later in May. Even at this stage, the Christian Union was not fully aware of the case against them. The motion was carried by 54/50, and the Guild approved the motion. The CU was then forced to change its name to the Evangelical Christian Union.
The Christian Union then sought to reverse this decision by requesting a University referendum. Before this referendum, a hastily drafted equal opportunities policy was put forward by the Guild, stating in effect that any discrimination based on sexuality would lead to expulsion from the students union and a withdrawal of funds. At the same time, various posters were put up throughout the University supporting the vote to stop the name change from the 'ECU' to the 'CU', these posters were ruthless, misinformed and insensitive. A University referendum was subsequently held in October. The motion to change the name from 'ECU' to 'CU' was successful, but the Guild refused to ratify it. It was argued that the University rules state that a quorum of 10 per cent of students must be present for a motion to be carried. When less than 10 per cent of students are present, the Guild have the casting vote. They subsequently ruled that the 'ECU' should remain the 'ECU'. Since that referendum, the Christian Union has been suspended, their student union bank account has been frozen, and they are not permitted to use any rooms or facilities within the Guild's jurisdiction for events or advertising. The issue is particularly pressing as the CU have an evangelistic mission on campus in just three weeks. They must now look for alternative advertising methods and venues.
The Exeter University Student magazine article on this issue can be found on page 2 of this Exepose article.
In Edinburgh, the Christian Union has attracted criticism for adopting the "Pure" Course. This course advocates biblical teaching on sex and relationships. It states that sex is only appropriate within the life-long commitment of marriage, and that sex outside that institution is a sin. This clearly includes sex in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. The result has been that the Christian Union has been described as homophobic. Gay activists have attempted to have the course banned before its commencement on Mon 23rd October. Following a misleading and distorted article about "Pure" on the front page of the Student Association newspaper, Gay activists launched their own "Stop Pure" campaign, setting up an internet-based forum. The Chaplain of the University had initially supported the teaching of the "Pure" course, but has since refused to support the Christian Union.
For further information on Edinburgh Christian Union please visit the Edinburgh News website.
These Christian Unions are in the midst of a real battle to boldly proclaim biblical truth.
VES Name change
A legal challenge under the Trademarks Act 1998 is being brought against the Voluntary Euthanasia Society by a number of Christian organisations. Christian Medical Fellowship, ALERT, and The British Council OF Disabled People are bringing the action to object to VES changing its name to "Dignity in Dying." The challenge is based upon the following provision of the Trademarks Act:
"A trade mark shall not be registered if it is contrary to public policy or accepted morals, or of such a nature as to deceive the public."
The action was filed in September and the VES have until the 14th November to respond. On the same issue, on 24th October, a legal challenge was filed by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship to the European Trademark Court in Spain, objecting to the registration and trademark of the phrase, "Dignity in dying, your life, your choice."
For further information on this case, please visit the Christian Concern For Our Nation website.
Nadia Eweida Case
Nadia Eweida, 55, is a committed Christian. She has worked for British Airways as a check-in worker, for seven years and has had an unblemished record to date. Last month however, a duty manager at Heathrow terminal four, requested that Nadia remove her cross, which was behind a company cravat. Nadia refused to remove it, and was subsequently suspended from work without pay for two weeks. British Airways have said that the airline uniform code states that staff must not wear visible jewellery or other 'adornments' whilst on duty without permission from the management. However, under rules drawn up by BA's 'diversity team' and 'uniform committee', Sikh employees can wear the traditional iron bangle, even though this could almost certainly be described as 'jewellery'. Furthermore, British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf. In response to her suspension, Miss Eweida said:
"I will not hide my belief in the Lord Jesus. British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf, and Sikhs to wear Turbans. Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith. I am a loyal and conscientious employee of British Airways, but I stand up for the rights of all citizens."
A petition of support has been signed for Miss Eweida by more than 200 fellow employees. Miss Eweida will be suing British Airways under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Miss Eweida, as a sister in Christ, needs our support. Please pray that she will know God's strength and peace and know that she is not alone in her stand for Christ. For further information on this case, please visit the websites for the Daily Mail and This Is London.
Lydia Playfoot case
Lydia Playfoot is a 15 year old school girl and committed Christian. In June 2004, she began to wear a ring known as "The Silver Ring Thing." The ring was developed by American Christians, and is a sign of a promise to God of sexual abstinence until marriage. As such it is a direct manifestation of faith, and an understanding of biblical truth. Lydia was told to remove the ring as it breached health and safety requirements. However, Sikh girls in the school are permitted to wear traditional bangles. These bangles are not deemed to contravene health and safety rules. Lydia and her family have tried to amicably resolve the issue with the school, but the situation has reached an impasse, with Lydia being threatened with suspension and even expulsion. Lydia sought legal advice and is now filing a case based on a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights as incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998. This Article states that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are necessary in a democratic society.."
Lydia has shown a tremendous depth and commitment to her faith in fighting this case.
For further information, please visit the websites for the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
In the past, Andrea worked as Public Policy Director for the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, an organisation with a membership of over two thousand lawyers. She was called to the Bar in 1988. Initially she specialised in Criminal and Family Law.
Andrea is married with 4 children.
View all articles by Andrea Williams