The student union argued the Christian Union is a “potential harm” to new students.
The JCR committee, the college’s student union, barred Balliol Christian Union (CU) from having a stall at the Freshers’ Fair, because they wanted it to be a “secular space”, according to Oxford’s student newspaper Cherwell.
The JCR later pitched a multi-faith stall to display leaflets however, no representative would be allowed to staff it, according to leaked emails. The Balliol CU rejected the offer.
The move sparked a backlash among students, with others within the College criticising it as a “violation of free speech”.
The JCR passed a motion on Sunday condemning the JCR committees for “barring the participation of specific faith-based organizations”.
It states: “the Balliol JCR should not make judgments regarding the legitimacy of faith groups or religious expression.”
The motion prohibits the JCR from barring any official religious societies from participation in the Balliol freshers’ fair in future.
In an email exchange, JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative: “We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”
“Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism,” he added.
In a Facebook post, JCR president Hubert Au said the decision to have a multi-faith stall rather than a specific CU stall, was reached “in light of both concerns raised by members [of the Welfare sub committee].”
“We didn’t want to monopolise the presence of any individual faith/belief society at the Balliol freshers’ fair.”