Students at the University of Oxford in the U.K. have voted in favor of banning a conservative Christian group from holding a residential camp for young people.
College paper The Oxford Student reported that the Junior Common Room, the student body at Lady Margaret Hall, overwhelmingly voted during a debate in favor of banning Christian Concern's Wilberforce Academy, which says that it aims to "train and equip the invited students on what it means to proclaim Christ in public life."
The ban is not yet final, as the government body will have to make a decision on the issue at the fourth week of its meeting.
Christian Concern's support in favor of traditional marriage as defined by a union between one man and one woman, along with its warnings of Islamic radicalization in the West, are said to have been at the center of concerns raised against the group.
President Joshua Tulloch explained that the JCR is not opposing Christian Concern solely because of its views, but also because students are worried that the group is a "real threat to the physical and mental safety of students."
"We're inviting them into our home and we can't invite people who stand against our values," said one student, who wasn't named.
The Telegraph noted that the move was driven by LGBT students who are uncomfortable with Christian Concern's presence, also because of the organization's history of backing pro-life protests at abortion clinics.
Christian Concern said in a statement to The Christian Post that the college itself has the requisite management and decision making power on the booking issue. It recognized that the student vote went against it, however.
"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 nine 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," the group said.
"We have written to ask the college what the expected costs would be for the additional security that they believe is necessary to prevent their own community members causing disruption to our event," Christian Concern added.
"It is disappointing that the college and its students would appear to feel so threatened by an event promoting the same Christian values as Oxford University has so clearly been shaped by."
"If the college believes in a quantifiable risk of harassment I'd be in favor of rejecting the conference but it looks like the JCR are rejecting them on an ideological basis which seems actively against its own nebulous values," said a student who wasn't named.
Oxford students in favor of hosting Christian Concern made their arguments on the grounds of free speech.
Others suggested that the Christian group be allowed to participate, if only for those who oppose its views to debate it.
Students also highlighted that turning down the group's request would go against the college's obligation to freedom of speech. As LHMP's adopted position reads:
"Free speech is the lifeblood of a university. It enables the pursuit of knowledge. It helps us approach truth... Recognizing the vital importance of free expression for the life of the mind, a university may make rules concerning the conduct of debate but should never prevent speech that is lawful. Inevitably, this will mean that members of the University/College are confronted with views that some find unsettling, extreme or offensive."