Free speech should be valued by us all

Government Minister Sam Gyimah has spoken this week at a “free speech summit” pledging to protect free speech in Universities from what he described as “chilling intolerance”.

The meeting of higher education groups and government was in response to concerns that universities have become hostile to freedom of expression.

For example, there have been cases where individual Christians or Christian groups believe they have been subject to discrimination and their opportunities to use university facilities and publicity networks have been curtailed. Such was the experience of a college Christian Union at Oxford University who were banned from a freshers’ event last year.

We welcome the recognition from the Government that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. As Christians we desire to be gracious in debate and not cause unnecessary offence, and we would support all efforts to maintain the right to free speech which we have enjoyed for many years in this country.

Sometimes the suppression of free speech is motivated by fear – an over-zealous application of equalities legislation in an attempt to avoid breaking the law. But in some cases it may be due to a fear of Christians, especially so-called “fundamentalists”. We need to work hard to show that we are as notoriously inclusive as Jesus, who was often criticised for being too welcoming of society’s “undesirables”. Yes, we want to uphold Christ’s teaching and contend for the truth, but at the same time we also want to show that we love and accept people where they are right now.

Active hostility towards Christians is also shown by those who are highly offended by biblical views on a number of issues. In such cases we will need to stand up for our rights in law, but at the same time we recognise that Christians will often face persecution of some kind, especially in a secular state such as ours. If this does happen, we can rejoice to be associated with Christ in his sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:5) and take every opportunity live out our faith, even in adversity.

Graham Nicholls, Affinity Director


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