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Prevent strategy used to ban Christian union

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A Christian union has been banned from holding meetings on college premises, as a result of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy Prevent.

It is believed that this is the first time a Christian group has been targeted under the government initiative.

'No complaints' about union

Explaining the situation, Toni Coulton, the director of Festive, which supports Christians in further education and sixth-form colleges, said: "Senior management were not happy to have Christians meeting for prayer and fellowship and the reason they gave was because of the Prevent initiative."

Mrs Coulton said that there had been no complaints of inappropriate behaviour by the group. She has been advising members of the union at the further education college.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre, commented on the incident, saying: "Something has gone seriously wrong in this country if young people are not allowed to meet for normal Christian fellowship. It is difficult to believe that they could pose a security threat."

Increasing concerns

The Prevent strategy to tackle 'extremism' at universities and colleges was implemented last Autumn. In a consultation document in 2014, the government said that the initiative would tackle all terrorist threats, but although it mentioned Islamic extremism and the 'far right', it did not specify that Christians would also be targeted.

The government has also revealed new measures to tackle "extremism in all its forms" in its Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill. After the strategy's initial publication last October, Christian Concern and several other groups raised a number of concerns, highlighting the threats the measures pose to Christian freedoms.

Andrea Williams said that this incident of a Christian union being barred from holding meetings "demonstrates how groups will be wrongly targeted by vague and sweeping definitions of extremism."

She added: "This is only the beginning – we will likely see an increase of this kind of censorship and control as the Counter Extremism bill is implemented. The freedom for Christians to teach from the whole Bible will come under threat as certain beliefs will be deemed to be 'extreme'."

Student expelled over Facebook comments

The Christian Legal Centre has this year seen a Christian university student expelled from his social work course, simply for expressing the biblical view of marriage on his personal Facebook page.

Felix Ngole, who was studying for a Masters in social work at Sheffield University, was told by a 'Fitness to Practice' committee that he "may have caused offence to some individuals" and had "transgressed boundaries which are not deemed appropriate for someone entering the Social Work profession." His action would have an effect on his "ability to carry out a role as a Social Worker," the Committee said.

The university rejected Felix's appeal against the decision. The Christian Legal Centre is continuing to support him as he seeks further action. 

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Related Links: 
Christian student to seek further action after expulsion from university course  
College outlaws Christian prayer meetings under extremism rules (Times £)