LONDON – The Evangelical Alliance, representing more than 1 million evangelicals in the U.K., has expressed concern over the Exeter University Christian Union’s legal action against the university’s student guild.
In a release, the EA stated: "The Evangelical Alliance regrets that the situation between the students guild at Exeter University and the Christian Union has led to legal action.
"The Alliance supports freedom of religious expression, speech, and belief, and regards the attempt to rename the Christian Union at Exeter University as ludicrous."
The executive committee of the Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union issued proceedings last week in the High Court seeking a judicial review of the decision to suspend the Christian Union from the Guild of Students.
Christian students at Exeter University are the first in the U.K. to take legal action under the Human Rights Act against their student guild and university.
The court will be asked to quash the decision to suspend the CU at Exeter University. The committee has also instructed Paul Diamond, a leading civil rights barrister to represent them.
Ben Martin, a member of the CU committee in Exeter said: "Legal action was the very last thing we wanted to take.
"We are all students trying to concentrate on our studies, but the action by the guild, in blatant infringement of our rights, and their reluctance to reinstate us, has left us with no alternative."
The guild had suggested to the CU that mediation and negotiation might help, but Martin is adamant that when it comes to fundamental human rights, "there is nothing to mediate or negotiate about."
He stressed, however, that if the guild had reinstated the CU as a full society, then he and others would have been happy to meet with the guild and look afresh at how its equal opportunities policies related to religious societies.
The Evangelical Alliance offered its support in the release: "We fully support the actions of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in their support for the Exeter Christian Union, and we trust the matter will be resolved as soon as possible. However, some crucial clarifications of human rights law are at stake in this case."
The director of public policy at the Evangelical Alliance, Dr R David Muir, said: "Christians have always used statements of faith to define, express, and defend their beliefs; the freedom to do that is an essential religious liberty."
The CU expects a first hearing of the case in the High Court in London around March or April.