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By Jonathan Tomlin
Oxford’s LGBTQ community have planned a protest against a Christian Concern conference, to be held at Exeter this month.
The protest, to be held on 25th March, comes after The Oxford Student reported that the Christian Concern group, which advocates “corrective therapy” for homosexuals, will meet at the college this vacation.
The conference, called “The Wilberforce Academy”, whose website boasts a large picture of the Radcliffe Camera on its home page, is an annual event run by the group.
Christian Concern’s CEO earlier claimed that “the Bible says clearly that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that all sex outside of marriage is wrong”.
The LGBTQ Campaign wrote to the Rector of Exeter College to inform her of the protest, saying: “As we know you are aware, the organisation Christian Concern promotes an actively homophobic, transphobic, racist and sexist agenda. It advocates scientifically unsound and moreover dangerous ‘therapy’ in order to ‘cure’ homosexuality amid numerous other disagreeable things.
“Such views cause social harm rather than social harmony, and we are concerned that, by appearing to support this conference, the University can be presented (by Christian Concern and others) as endorsing these views, and Christian Concern’s views can be legitimised by their connection with the University’s reputation as one of the most important centres of knowledge in the world.
“We believe that greeting the conference with a barrage of placards will make it clear, both to those attending and to anyone else watching, that Oxford does not welcome such hateful views, and will not stand for inequality.”
Edward Allnutt, a JCR LGBT rep at Exeter, said: “I see no reason that these people should not be able to rent college premises for a private conference if they do not use Exeter in their promotional material. I therefore hope that those protesting understand what they are protesting.
“If they are there to protest against Exeter because they think we are homophobic or that the governing body mishandled the issue, I believe they may number among those who have not followed this process ab ovo but have jumped blindly on the bandwagon of righteous moral crusade, a bandwagon that terminates at confrontation via media obfuscation and general ignorance.
“If they are simply there with a message of love to remind the public that Oxford is not a bigoted backwater full of cretins, whose only religion is intolerance, then that’s entirely laudable and I support it wholeheartedly.”
Benjamin Clayton, JCR President at Exeter, said: “The Exeter JCR is fully committed to equality for all. This is why the JCR Executive has fully supported College’s moves to improve the process of allocating commercial facilities in the future, and the JCR has strong representation on all working bodies.”
The Rector of Exeter College Frances Cairncross has stated: “Exeter College has a strong record in protecting the rights and dignity of its gay and lesbian members, and we continue to champion those values. My colleagues and I have discussed the conference at length with representatives of the MCR, the JCR, representatives of Exeter’s LGBTQ community and other students who have voiced views on the matter.
“As soon as it was raised as a potential issue, the Bursar wrote to the Wilberforce Academy to emphasise our position on equal rights, and sought and obtained reassurances that nothing in the meeting would be against our policies on basic rights and freedoms. The first meeting of Governing Body in Hilary Term also set up a working party to review the basis and terms on which the College agrees to the use of its premises by other bodies.
“We believe that Exeter College is a place where students and staff alike can be free from fear and prejudice, and we are proud of that.”
Last month Michael Amherst, an Oxford graduate, returned his Exeter College degree in opposition to the upcoming event.