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Case Wins & Launch of 'Christian Legal Centre'

Printer-friendly version EXETER University’s Christian Union won a crucial vote on Friday 7th December 2007 in their highly-publicised human rights battle with the campus Students’ Guild and University authorities.


  • Exeter Christian Union win crucial vote

  • Successful legal challenge to lap dance licence

  • New ‘Christian Legal Centre’ is launched

Exeter University Christian Union win crucial vote at Students’ meeting

EXETER University’s Christian Union won a crucial vote on Friday 7th December 2007 in their highly-publicised human rights battle with the campus Students’ Guild and University authorities. On 7th December 2007, their prolonged battle with the University took a substantial step forward when the CU won a democratic student vote at an Emergency General Meeting of the Students’ Guild at which the CU were invited by the Guild to present a motion allowing them to require all officers and members of the CU to sign a statement of belief.

On January 5th 2007, Ben Martin, a member of the Christian Union, filed papers at the High Court following the suspension of the 50-year-old Christian Union (CU) from the official list of student societies on campus, and the freezing of its Student Union bank account. The CU had also been banned from free use of Students’ Guild premises, and from advertising events within Guild facilities, because the Students’ Guild claimed the CU constitution and activities did not conform to its Equal Opportunities standards.

Following detailed negotiations between the CU, the Guild and the University, and between the National Union of Students and the Universities and Colleges Christian Unions (UCCF), and under the threat of High Court action, the CU have now secured:-

  • An active Student Union bank account;

  • Re-listing on the Guild’s official list of societies; and

  • Permission to use and advertise CU events on Guild/campus premises.

At 12-noon on Friday 7th December, the Student body voted by 122 to 47 that the relationship between the CU and Student Guild should reflect proposed new guidelines on religious societies as agreed between the National Union of Students and UCCF, which would allow the CU to ask officers and members to sign up to the aims and beliefs of the society, whilst all meetings and events remain open to all students at Exeter University.

Commenting on the vote, Ben Martin, who has since left the university, said: “This continues to be a long and hard fight for the rights of Christian students to assemble and form as a group of fellow believers under a lawful constitution. We support the rights of any student on campus to assemble and discuss/debate any topic with fellow students in what is a free society. This all began 18 months ago when one student, after 50 years of the CU being on campus, complained that he did not feel able to sign up to our statement of belief. We pray now the Guild will ratify the vote as is right and proper and we will be able to put this all behind us”

Ross Tranter, current CU president added: “The whole CU is pleased with this vote and we hope now that the Guild will ratify the vote so that we may move forward from this matter. We are simply looking forward to getting on with our academic studies and to developing the work of the CU as a well-established, successful and fully recognised society on campus. We hope the Guild will recognise this important vote and not force us to proceed with legal action”

Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, commented “This vote is an important step forward towards a resolution in this case. It is a victory for common sense, and a signal to the Guild on how students feel about a truly diverse and equal agenda where freedom of religion and freedom of association can be fully respected and integrated on campus. Christian students in Exeter are showing courage and leadership beyond their years and fighting for these great principles of a truly free and democratic society. Universities are the places where the leaders of tomorrow are shaped and moulded, and it is heartening to see Christian students claiming these important principles as their own for the benefit of freedom for all.”

Successful Legal Challenge To Lap Dance Licence

A successful judgment was given yesterday in a case where residents in Durham challenged a decision to grant a licence for a lap dancing club in the city. Kirsty Thomas, Dr Desmond Evans and many others were appealing a decision made by Durham City Council in August 2007 on the basis that the lap dancing club would fail to promote public safety, would add to the already high levels of nuisance and disorder along North Road, and would harm children both morally and psychologically.

On 6th and 7th December, witnesses gave evidence about how the lap dancing activities would harm the moral and psychological welfare of children who pass the club on their way to the bus stop, and would prevent large numbers of the public from feeling safe as they walked along North Road. Residents were also concerned that the already troubled North Road area would deteriorate further following the introduction of this type of sexual entertainment.

When considering an application for a licence, Durham City Council’s licensing authority must promote several licensing objectives which include preventing crime and disorder, promoting public safety, preventing public nuisance and protecting children from harm. Barrister Ian Miller successfully argued that, taking into account evidence about the current problems in the North Road area of Durham, and the risks created if the decision to grant a licence was upheld, the licensing authority had breached its duty to promote these objectives. By facilitating lap dancing at the club, crime and disorder would   increase, public safety would be endangered and, most importantly, children would be morally and psychologically harmed.


Launch of Christian Legal Centre

We would like to announce the formation of a new organisation called the Christian Legal Centre. Following Andrea Williams’ involvement in a number of high profile Christian Interest Litigation cases, a decision has been made to form an organisation to enable legal and litigation support for these cases to be more effectively focused. The Christian Legal Centre is separate from the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, which will continue with its remit of public policy briefing as a Christian charity representing a large number of Christian lawyers.  

The Christian Legal Centre will act as an information portal and assist individuals to instruct Christian lawyers in cases where they feel they are unable to live in accordance with their faith and are facing discrimination and unlawful hindrance as a result. The Centre will also take on cases to defend Christian principles, truth, sanctity of life and freedom.  

Andrea Williams is the Director of the new organisation and will also continue in her role as Director of Public Policy for The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship. The Christian Legal Centre has its own dedicated website, which will be kept up to date with all the information about current and past cases. You can view the website at   

We would be delighted to have your continued interest and support in this important area of work.