David Cameron: 'Clearly ludicrous' to ban Christian Unions under extremism laws

The Prime Minister has said it is "clearly ludicrous" for a college Christian Union (CU) to be banned on the grounds of the government's counter-extremism strategy.

The Prime Minister added he was sorry he could not make a national parliamentary prayer breakfast next week.parliamentlive.tv

David Cameron was asked in Prime Minister's Questions today about a case where a CU was banned purportedly on the basis of the government's anti-terrorism legislation. The college in question has not been identified but it is believed to be the first case of a Christian group being targeted under the Prevent strategy, which was introduced last autumn to tackle extremism in universities and schools.

In response to a question by the Christian MP Fiona Bruce, Cameron told the House of Commons he had not heard of the particular case but it was "clearly ludicrous" to ban a CU as a result of Prevent.

"People need to exercise some common sense in making these judgements because it is quite clear that is not what it [Prevent] was intended for," he said.

The case in question was first reported in the Sunday Times which said the college had barred the CU from holding prayer and Bible study meetings on site as a result of Prevent.

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, asked the question about the banned Christian Union: "Would the Prime Minister agree such actions was never the purpose of a strategy intended to address terrorism and extremism?"parliamentlive.tv

Toni Coulton, director of Festive, a charity that supports Christians in the UK's further education and sixth-form colleges, told the Sunday Times: "Senior management were not happy to have Christians meeting for prayer and fellowship and the reason they gave was because of the Prevent initiative."

Speaking to Christian Today, Coulton said she'd heard of other colleges shutting down CUs. She cited a number of factors, including publicity about the dangers of radicalisation and worries about what Ofsted might say if it inspects on-campus religious bodies.

Prevent is a part of the government's anti-extremism strategy and places a duty on schools and colleges to report suspected incidents of radicalisation.

In 2014 the government made clear the programme was designed to tackle all aspects of the terrorist threat. It requires teachers "to take action when they observe behaviour of concern". However, although a consultation document on the strategy mentioned Islamist extremism and the extreme right, no mention was made of Christianity.