A Christian student union has sparked outrage after banning women from speaking at its events – unless they are married.
The Christian Union at the University of Bristol has refused to allow female speakers at their weekly workshops unless they are accompanied by their husband.
Women’s groups have condemned the move as “hugely discriminatory and deeply offensive”.
But leaders of the union claim it is actually a concession to modernisers – because women were previous banned from attending altogether.
Matt Oliver, President of the Christian Union, said: “This is a difficult issue for some and so we decided that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU: Equip meetings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekends away or as our main speaker for mission weeks.”
He went on to add that a woman would be allowed to teach if she was accompanied by her husband.
Students in the university have been angered by the Christian Union’s decision, declaring it as violation of women’s rights.
Kester Ratcliff wrote on Facebook: “The ‘CU’ ought to be obliged to change their name to accurately reflect what they actually are.
“They are not a ‘Christian Union’, they are a society for proselytising a very particular US-style rightwing Conservative Evangelical version of Christianity.
“That’s fair enough if they say so clearly, it’s a free country, but calling themselves a ‘Christian Union’ is mis-advertisement.
“If they cannot abide by equality legislation, then they cannot be registered under a charity, in which case the society must be expelled from society-membership of the Students Union.”
The Bristol University Feminist Society have slammed the religious society for discriminating against women and archaic.
A spokesperson said: “The CU’s position seems to be implying that they have reached a compromise on the issue, however it is still hugely discriminatory, deeply offensive and sexist to women.
“They are suggesting that women have more worth as speakers if speaking with their husband while assuming that all women are interested in marriage, or men for that matter.”
The Student Union’s Welfare and Equality committee are investigating the situation, and if they rule that the Christian Union are breaking the university’s Equality Policy, the group could face expulsion.
Vice President Alessandra Berti said: “We have been made aware of a communication from the University of Bristol Christian Union, and we would like to assure our members and the general public that UBU and the full-time elected officers are investigating the issue further in consultation with the groups involved.
“In particular we will be making certain that our Equality Policy is properly adhered to in all cases.
“The University of Bristol Students’ Union takes allegations of discrimination very seriously.
“UBU has an Equality Policy which explains that we prohibit discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation in line with The Equality Act 2010 and as one of our key values of equality and diversity.”
The weekly Equip meetings are a mixture of seminars, workshops and talks based on the gospel.
On the Christian Union’s website, it says: “This is our main weekly meeting helping to practically equip Christian students with the skills and knowledge to live and speak for Jesus at University.”
There is no formal position on the role of men and women in the church laid out by the union’s charter.