If you want to ban anyone, you need coherent reasons that will stand up in the public forum
There was a time when Balliol College was considered one of the top Oxford Colleges. I do not know if that is still the case, but the College’s reputation must take a battering after the latest folly of its Junior Common Room (JCR), as reported in this magazine and also in the Guardian.
The JCR’s leadership decided to ban the Christian Union (CU) from the Balliol Freshers’ Fair. According to the Guardian, they wanted the Freshers’ Fair to be a, you have guessed it, “secular space”.
This needs some unpacking, so please bear with me. All spaces outside church buildings are per se secular. That is what space is, in the saeculum, in the world. Allowing the CU to have a stall in the Freshers’ Fair would not make the Freshers’ Fair into a sacred space. Rather, letting any religious organisation set up a stall in a fair of any kind is essentially allowing them a place in the secular space that is shared by people of all faiths and none. The JCR’s position is absurd because the secularity of the Freshers’ Fair is not under threat, because the Freshers’ Fair is of its very nature a secular gathering.
Having made this absurd and ill-informed decision, the JCR president and vice-president then tied themselves in knots trying to justify it. Vice-president Freddy Potts is quoted as saying:
Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.
Yes, really. Is that he best he can do?
Update to this story: The umbrella organisation for Christian Unions in the UK said the dispute had been “amicably resolved”.