Scottish Student Body to Vote on Pure Course

The Scottish National Union of Students will vote tomorrow on whether to stop a Christian course on relationships from taking place on university and college campuses.

At Saturday's Annual Meeting of the Scottish NUS in Glasgow, a Private Members Motion will call on delegates to pass a resolution banning the Pure course on the basis that it is homophobic.

The course, run by Christian Unions, is based on the orthodox Christian teachings concerning marriage, and teaches the importance of fidelity in relationships. It has been run on campuses throughout Scotland over the past 18 months.

The Pure course was suspended from being taught on campus by Edinburgh University at the end of last year following claims by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans-gendered Society that it was discriminatory and breached Equal Opportunities Policies.

However, the university, after examining the course, allowed the CU to continue to teach it on campus, rejecting the claims.

The NUS motion to be debated describes the Pure course as "a homophobic course that denounces homosexuality as 'sexually immoral', supports the suppression and 'healing' of homosexuality, and advises students with 'same sex impulses' to consult homophobic literature to attempt to cure them of their homosexual

However, Anna Shilliday, a Christian who supports the right of Christian students to meet and discuss the Bible's teaching on relationships, in the same way she defends the rights of all students, including gay groups, to hold seminars based on their beliefs, will speak against the motion on two grounds.

Miss Shilliday will tell delegates that approving such an amendment will make a "laughing stock" of the way NUS Conference resolutions are made, and that the claims of the motion are groundless.

In her speech she will say: "The motion calls for a ban on the Pure course, but there has been no official opportunity for delegates to hear proper representation from UCCF, or the course writers, or presenters.

"This makes a mockery of quality debate, and is an insult to those of us being asked to vote on it. It invalidates any serious attempt we may wish for conference decisions to be taken seriously by the outside world.

"Delegates are being asked to ban something they have never seen, read or in some cases, ever heard of. This is nonsense."

Miss Shilliday will also argue that the motion put forward lacks the evidence that would allow both sides to properly assess the course before forming their opinions.

She will say that voting on this motion "without each of us having at least read the materials encourages us to be as prejudicial and intolerant of the Pure course as this motion claims the Pure course is of our friends and fellow colleagues who are homosexuals".

Miss Shilliday will tell fellow students that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender societies in Aberdeen and Glasgow have very good relationships with the Christian Unions and the Pure course has been run in both these universities, without problems, despite holding disagreements.

Kay Cathcart, UCCF staff worker for Edinburgh CUs, said: "The purpose of the Pure course is to help Christian Union members develop a biblical perspective on their relationships. It is about living out relationships in the light of God's love, forgiveness and design.

"God values us all as people made in His image and it is in response to our relationship with Him that Christians choose not to satisfy their sexual desires outside of marriage, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual context.

"Refraining from acting on some of our sexual desires is a good and normal part of human experience. None of this promotes homophobia."

She stressed that the Pure course was not a 'healing' course for homosexuality but said that anyone on the course with same-sex attractions would be encouraged to contact the True Freedom Trust, "which would empathise and help them to work out what they actually want to do," she said.

Miss Shilliday will advise conference that the allegations of homophobia could easily have been refuted if UCCF and Pure course leaders had been allowed representation.