Oxford students vote against Christian group's residential camp

An aerial view of the University of Oxford(Photo: Unsplash/Sidharth Bhatia)

Oxford University students have voted against allowing a Christian group's residential camp to take place at one of their colleges over concerns that it is a threat to the 'mental safety' of students.

Christian Concern had sought to hold its four-day Wilberforce Academy at Lady Margaret Hall next summer but the plans have been resoundingly voted down by the Junior Common Room (JCR) committee.

The students voted 81 to 8 against the residential camp, with two abstentions, although a final decision will be made by the college's governing body next week.

The Oxford Student newspaper reports that in the debate prior to the vote, members of the JCR recognised Christian Concern 'as a real threat to the physical and mental safety of students'. 

One student reportedly said: 'We're inviting them into our home and we can't invite people who stand against our values.'

The students' objections were weighed against the college's obligations under freedom of speech laws, with the Oxford Student reporting that the college's adopted position is to protect free speech as the 'lifeblood of a university'.

'Recognising the vital importance of free expression for the life of the mind, a university may make rules concerning the conduct of debate but should never prevent speech that is lawful,' it reportedly states.

'Inevitably, this will mean that members of the University/College are confronted with views that some find unsettling, extreme or offensive.'

Christian Concern lobbies for traditional marriage and the protection of Christian freedoms, with its legal wing, the Christian Legal Centre, having been involved in numerous high-profile cases, including most recently that of NHS nurse Sarah Kuteh, who lost her job for sharing her faith with patients and offering prayer.

According to its website, the Wilberforce Academy aims to equip students and young professionals 'for servant-hearted, Christ-centred leadership in public life, having been equipped with a robust biblical framework that guides their thinking, prayers and activity in addressing the issues facing our society'.