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'Good news for Christian Unions': Christian advocacy group welcomes free speech measures at universities

Christian advocacy group, ADF International has welcomed the Government's plans to promote freedom of speech at universities in England. 

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced new measures including a "free speech champion" that will investigate any potential infringements. 

The new measures will allow students and academics to have an "easier legal route" to raise a freedom of speech breach to the university. 

Ryan Christopher, director of ADF International UK, told Premier Christian News the measures are "really good news for Christian Unions" as some students might have felt their views had been suppressed. 

"At the moment, although the law is very strong in protecting the rights to affiliate and to speak freely on campus, in practice the reality is student unions often act as though that law doesn't apply to them. 

"What the Government is looking to do here is to make sure that when it's a student union-run thing, whether it be an event or a freshers fair, a Christian Union will have positive rights to say that thing at that event, or at that fair, and that's really good news. That takes all the ambiguity away that student unions have used in order to suppress certain worldviews," he said. 

Under new measures, student unions will have to ensure that freedom of speech is granted in all its events to all members. The Office for Students regulator will be legally obliged to promote freedom of speech and will have the power to impose fines on those who breach the condition.

Individuals will be entitled to seek compensation through the courts if they have suffered loss from a breach of the free speech duties, such as being expelled, dismissed or demoted.

However, not everyone has welcomed the new plans. The National Union of Students has said that "there is no evidence" of freedom of speech crisis on campuses and urged the Government to focus "on providing the practical support that students desperately need". 

The Rusell Group, which represents 24 universities in the UK, also responded saying that the new measures, if taken forward, "are evidence-based and proportionate, with due care taken to ensure academic freedom and institutional autonomy."

Mr Christopher concluded by giving some points for prayer. 

He asked for Christian to pray "that proposals turn into action and then secondly, for each of the students who are Christian and who feel like they want to share the gospel but feel like they're unable in some way. [Pray] that they will be inspired to speak with prudence and charity and carefully, but not feel like they have to hold back in expressing what they really believe in." 

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said steps towards legislation will be made "in due course". 

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