Bristol Uni Christian Union maintains ban on women


by Sunny Hundal    
8:20 am - December 5th 2012

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Bristol University’s Christian Union is under investigation after it turns out it is not going to allow women speakers at its weekly meetings.

The controversy erupted after the Bristol Tab website revealed yesterday that ‘women will be seen but not heard’.

However the move is being reported as a new ban when it’s not.

It turns out the BUCU had always banned women speakers at meetings. But when there was a move to allow women to speak in certain settings, controversy erupted and some members resigned.

The Christian Union then sent out an email clarifying that women can speak with their husbands but unmarried women must remain silent.

The Bristol Tab reports:

Having spent ‘a lot of time exploring this issue, seeking God’s wisdom on it and discussing it together’ the CU executive committee decided that it is not appropriate for women to teach alone at weekly meetings, or be the main speaker at the CU weekend away.

Women are also banned from speaking alone at the group’s mission weeks.

According to the Guardian, the students union is now looking into whether discrimination rules have been broken.

The Bristol University Feminist Society said in a statement:

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.

Surely the Christian Union should have investigated over this years ago?

It also seems that Bristol CU deactivated their Twitter and Facebook accounts last night.

Update: The BUCU has now u-turned it seems.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Is this kind of thing common in student CU’s?

I know Islamic socs routinely hold segregated events.

2. the a&e charge nurse

Religious group treat women as 2nd class citizens …. quelle surprise?

This does seem bizarre in the current age.

However, provided membership of the CU is voluntary, they should be able to set whatever rules they want and it is no business of the state or the law to try to regulate them.

The same applies to Islamic Societies.

Not all CU’s or churches prevent women from speaking, the CU and church I am involved in actively encourage them. Shame that we are all tarred with the same brush…

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 1 cjcj

“Is this kind of thing common in student CU’s?”

My guess is that it’s rare. Obviously it depends on the local dominant form of Christianity, and even if the branch in question is misogynistic, it might put on a pretty face to attract all those groovy students. I imagine this only happens when you’ve a) got a majority of believers in a misogynistic faith and b) they vote for a conservative set-up, possibly in protest to earlier liberal policies.

1 Timothy 2:12-13 seems unequivocal on the subject.

If some women want voluntarily to join a group which treats them as second-class I can’t see a good reason for stopping them.

7. the a&e charge nurse

[3] ‘However, provided membership of the CU is voluntary, they should be able to set whatever rules they want and it is no business of the state or the law to try to regulate them’ – strongly agree, if only for the unintended comedy value such groups provide.

I suspect the issue will eventually pan out not so much as whether they should be allowed to do so, but whether they should continue to receive student union funds and use of facilities while doing so.

Tbh I think most SU’s primary concern with student religious groups is making sure that they’re not a cult out to exploit their membership. And yes I do mean like the movemetarians out of the Simpsons (albeit with a focus on Jesus or whatever rather than spaceships to blisstonia).

“Is this kind of thing common in student CU’s?

I know Islamic socs routinely hold segregated events.”
Insightful

11. Robin Levett

@pagar #3:

However, provided membership of the CU is voluntary, they should be able to set whatever rules they want and it is no business of the state or the law to try to regulate them

Provided, of course, that at minimum there is a truly open forum; that Bristol University would provide the same level of funding and facilities to an alternative, or breakaway, CU society.

as far as i am concerned women are capable as much as men are!

“and even if the branch in question is misogynistic”

You mean sexist. They don’t hate women, do they? They just have a different view on their role in society. One I disagree with, but hey ho.

They should be sanctioned if they’ve broken the student union’s rules. Otherwise it’s their business and maybe people who disagree could set up their own society?

14. Just visiting

The Guardian tonight reports that the CU will now allow women to do everything.

As someone who was active in student poltics some decades ago and had friends who identified themselves as Christians on campus with whom I was allied, I am appalled to hear this news from Bristol.

The recent news from Pakistan and Afghanistan of young women being attacked and killed or severely injured for standing up for their right to an education and to be able to go to work without a man as chaperone may seem unconnected to this, but to me the two are indeed connected.

All major religions seem to have an underlying tendency to be against women being key participants and yet many have moved away from that stance. Reform Synangogues have women Rabbis for example and the C of E did have a large majoroty in favour of women Bishops even if it failed to pass.

If we wish to encourage the rest of the world to move towards a 21st century ethos against patriarchy we should perhaps clean our own stables first. Surely any student group receiving University support should have some basic standards of equality?

16. Cristian (ironically)

Is is surely the case that ALL Abrahamic religions treat women as less capable and less worthy than men, but particularly those sects which have yet to discover that the 20th century has come and gone. That portion of text which is common to Christianity, Judaism and Islam is horrific in the attitudes it exemplifies that the so-called god has to most people. Can we really expect more from mere people in thrall to this “god”? Should they not be allowed to wallow in stupidity and prejudice, but confined to rooms far away from the rest of us, perhaps even barred from bringing their thoughts into the public arena, since we may say that they cannot all be correct in their “views”, but they certainly may all be incorrect?

What I’d like to know is whether BUCU also bans fornicators and unchaste damsels and, if not, why not?

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Cristian

“Should they not be allowed to wallow in stupidity and prejudice, but confined to rooms far away from the rest of us, perhaps even barred from bringing their thoughts into the public arena, since we may say that they cannot all be correct in their “views”, but they certainly may all be incorrect?”

If you’re going to write stuff like this, you really haven’t got much grounds to complain about other people’s “horrific attitudes”.

19. Cristian (ironically)

Chaise, why not? I’ve been exposed to these on many occasions, I stand by what I say, and I refuse to welcome with open arms those with ill-founded, superstitious prejudices. Anyway, if you read properly, you’ll see I give it the merit of describing the TEXT as horrific in attitude, which it is.

20. the a&e charge nurse

[18] problem is christians load the gun and put it in the hands of sceptics – or genocidal stupidity according to Sam Harris.

He suggests ‘a kind of conversational intolerance’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45_8FRtDCeQ

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 19 Cristian

“Chaise, why not?”

Because freedom is important. People have a right to their beliefs, and a right to express them, and you don’t have the right not to be offended.

“I’ve been exposed to these on many occasions, I stand by what I say, and I refuse to welcome with open arms those with ill-founded, superstitious prejudices.”

There’s quite a big gulf between “welcome with open arms” and “outlaw from expressing their opinions”. By all means call them stupid, or explain why they’re wrong, or refuse to talk to them. But you don’t have the right to make them go away. The world isn’t going to be reordered so that you find it pleasing to look upon.

“Anyway, if you read properly, you’ll see I give it the merit of describing the TEXT as horrific in attitude, which it is.”

Yes, but the text was written by people, and delivered by people, and is believed in by people. If it was randomly generated by a computer and everyone agreed it was stupid, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

22. Just Visiting

What Chaise said.

I am surprised you have a problem with this, Sunny. You never usually have anything to say about the frequent visits of religious hate speakers who not only discriminate agaisnt women, they even advocate violence against them – plus against Jews, gay people, non-believers etc.

There was a bunch of them last week at Brunel University. You didn’t appear to care about that. What’s different about this lot (apart from the bigots in this instance not actually being advocates of violence or terrorism)?

Ah yes: these are Christians, and they are mostly white. Silly me. That makes all the difference.

Aren’t you even faintly embarrassed by this silly pantomime? If you covered the whole range of religious nutters you could be doing something useful here. As it is, your point invariably seems to be about who the bigots are, rather than who the targets are. That’s little or no use to those who tend to get discriminated against or persecuted by religious reactionaries.

But then, they’re not really who you’re interested in, are they?

I’m still asking about why the BUCU has proscriptions out on women but not on fornicators?

I think we should know.

@23. Lamia: “I am surprised you have a problem with this, Sunny. You never usually have anything to say about the frequent visits of religious hate speakers who not only discriminate agaisnt women, they even advocate violence against them – plus against Jews, gay people, non-believers etc.”

I have a go against Sunny from time to time, but, Lamia, take a look at the Pickled Politics blog that he established.

Isn’t fundamentalist Christianity more logical than “modernist” Christianity?

There remains a small chance that the world was created by God, not necessarily the Christian version, and if you believe this then scientific discoveries are rather irrelevant.

The modernists, ie those who have gradually downgraded sections of the Bible from Truth to Allegory, are surely on much shakier ground?

We can also see that “literal” churches can buck the trend of decreasing congregations.

However, the risk the “literals” face is that it only takes one crack for the whole edifice to come tumbling down. For example, the Catholic Church maintains a hard-line traditionalist barrier, regarding this as essential to maintain authority. We can see from Irish and Italian birth rates that this authority pretty much vanished overnight.

Astonishingly, the Anglican Church, muddled and drifting, could well be the last man standing. (Or woman).

Presumably, fornicators can elude BUCU bans on the grounds that sinners can repent and forsake fornicating. OTOH women can’t give up being women even if they do repent. Tough cheese.

28. So Much for Subtlety

26. Jack C

Isn’t fundamentalist Christianity more logical than “modernist” Christianity?

Well yes. It is. That is not necessarily a good thing.

We can also see that “literal” churches can buck the trend of decreasing congregations. However, the risk the “literals” face is that it only takes one crack for the whole edifice to come tumbling down. For example, the Catholic Church maintains a hard-line traditionalist barrier, regarding this as essential to maintain authority. We can see from Irish and Italian birth rates that this authority pretty much vanished overnight.

Well the authority has not. It is just that a lot of Irish and Italians have stopped believing. However note that this follow Vatican II. The Vatican modernised, in a moderate way, and suffered as a result. The hard line Churches are not shrinking. Even the Catholics in the UK are not thanks to immigration. The Pentacostals and so on are growing.

Astonishingly, the Anglican Church, muddled and drifting, could well be the last man standing. (Or woman).

It could be but it almost certainly won’t. The American Church went down the feminist-friendly, gay-friendly path first. They have seen a collapse in numbers. The Anglicans cannot expect any better. People are inherently conservative in their religion. They will not go along with the spineless however trendy they are.

29. The XYZ Line

Bob B @ 24:

“I’m still asking about why the BUCU has proscriptions out on women but not on fornicators?

I think we should know.”

I can think of a couple of reasons:

(1) It’s easier to tell if somebody’s a woman than to tell if they’re a fornicator.

(2) St. Paul says that (a) women shouldn’t have teaching authority in Church, and (b) Christians shouldn’t try and live their lives sealed off from anybody who’s less than perfectly moral.

Jack C @ 26:

“There remains a small chance that the world was created by God, not necessarily the Christian version, and if you believe this then scientific discoveries are rather irrelevant.”

Not really, which is why modern science was invented by people who believed that the world was in fact created by God.

“The modernists, ie those who have gradually downgraded sections of the Bible from Truth to Allegory, are surely on much shakier ground?”

The early Christians would have regarded truth vs. allegory to be a false dichotomy. The idea that we ought to read the Bible stories as literally true, and that any attempt to interpret them metaphorically is somehow downgrading their truth status, is one that only really came in in the nineteenth century (and even then only among a small section of Protestants).

“However, the risk the “literals” face is that it only takes one crack for the whole edifice to come tumbling down. For example, the Catholic Church”

…Does not and never has adhered to Biblical literalism.

30. Shatterface

If the Union isn’t publicly funded or subsidised they can follow whatever bullshit beliefs they want.

Are they paying or are we?

29 The XYZ Line

“(1) It’s easier to tell if somebody’s a woman than to tell if they’re a fornicator.”

Surely a True Believer wouldn’t lie about fornicating, would they?

“2) St. Paul says that (a) women shouldn’t have teaching authority in Church”

Is there any special reason for regarding the apostle Paul as eternally infallible on this or anything else? And do Christian theological prescriptions and proscriptions never change through time? If not, why has the BUCU given up on stoning adulterers and unchaste damsels according to the divine instructions set out in Dueteronomy?

Bob @ 31:

“Surely a True Believer wouldn’t lie about fornicating, would they?”

If BUCU are anything like the vast majority of Christian Unions, they don’t just want “true believers” to attend their events.

“Is there any special reason for regarding the apostle Paul as eternally infallible on this or anything else?”

I’m not sure about “eternally infallible”, but St. Paul’s writings are usually considered very authoratative. Hence their being included in the Bible.

“If not, why has the BUCU given up on stoning adulterers and unchaste damsels according to the divine instructions set out in Dueteronomy?”

Well, as thirty seconds’ googling would have told you, Christians believe that the Jewish Law in the OT was only ever meant to be temporary, and that it has now been superseded after Jesus’ death and resurrection. So Christians aren’t bound to follow the laws of the OT.

33. Just Visiting

Bob B

oh dear, you introduce a bunch of new tangents, to feed your christianity-bashing habit

> do Christian theological prescriptions and proscriptions never change through time?

Yes they do change. But Christians would argue the underlying principles remain the same, but the details may change.

(compare and contrast Islam, where the Quran is not treated as a book of principles, but a book of specific and detailed rules to be obeyed. eg Jesus cursed a fig tree, but that has never been a part of Christianity: whereas Mohammad cursed a dog, and to this day, dogs are unclean in Islam).

> If not, why has the BUCU given up on stoning adulterers and unchaste damsels according to the divine instructions set out in Dueteronomy?

Come on Bob – you’ve been told so many times on LC but you stubbornly refuse to listen.

You’re obsessed on using the OT in a way that no Christian does.

Christians say that they do not treat the Old Testamant as a book of laws to be applied word for word.

They explain they use the whole New Covenant approach – ie that Jesus changed a bunch of stuff.

Hence for example, all the dietary stuff and offering of sacrifices from the OT -as you well know doesn’t happen among christians.

In fact, you mention adultery: as you’ve been told before Bob, Jesus himself in the NT rescued a women adulterer – saying ‘let he who is wthout sin caste the first stone’.

cf Mohammed, who in a similar scene but where he was the state power: said that the women should be stoned, but they should wait until her pregnancy had delivered.

Really Bob, you seem to have your hands over your ears in this area.

Rather like Zoe Williams in the Guardian today – visiting a Mosque where they preached what she thought was a sermon against domestic violence: but didn’t bother to check , to see there was a central lie at the heart of the sermon:

‘The prophet never raised a finger against is wives’ is not true, firstly Aisha was hit by him – (or at best it may have been ‘pushed’ such that it left pain).

And secondly he also advocated that men may beat their wives, if after earlier warnings and punishments don’t achieve obedience.

See how Muslim women’s groups today like BigSisters in London struggle with the legacy of Mohemmad’s words about beating women:

http://www.bigsister.org.uk/viewDetail.php?id=21

34. Just Visiting

Mr X

whoops, your reply beat mine – your reply was more succint too, well done.

Will Bob B give up his long-standing and wilful misreading of Christian thinking… I’ve engaged with him many times in that hope, but as his post today proves, to no avail….

35. So Much for Subtlety

16. Cristian (ironically)

Should they not be allowed to wallow in stupidity and prejudice, but confined to rooms far away from the rest of us, perhaps even barred from bringing their thoughts into the public arena, since we may say that they cannot all be correct in their “views”, but they certainly may all be incorrect?

This is why there are no liberals left in Britain. People who call themselves that don’t mean it. Liberalism and civil liberties are not merely slowly dying but all but dead.

I can’t say I care much one way or the other what a bunch of Christians at Bristol University do. But I do care that they have the right to practice their religion as they see fit. They have now been denied that right and bullied into the same PC orthodoxy the rest of British society has to adhere to.

This is, I suppose, the difference between the Left and the Right. The Right meant what it said about freedom which is why people like Eric Hobsbawm and Zygmunt Bauman were rewarded, honoured and even respected in British academia. But now the Left controls the levers of power they are determined not to extend the same rights to others. Which is why people like Frank Ellis were fired and James Watson driven out of the country. And why the Bristol Christians – an irrelevant group that no one would have ever heard of otherwise – can’t quietly go about the free exercise of their consciences.

SMFS. IN other words, you’re all in favour of freedom of expression for bigots and fascists, but not for those who call them out on it.

33 JV: “Will Bob B give up his long-standing and wilful misreading of Christian thinking… I’ve engaged with him many times in that hope, but as his post today proves, to no avail….”

Unsurprisingly, you haven’t addressed the questions put – which helps to explain why I don’t take those religions seriously. Btw I’ve also been asking whether the intelligent creator is to blame for the hundreds of thousands who have been killed by earthquakes, tsunamis and storms in the last few years but I’ve not had any answers to that either.

38. So Much for Subtlety

35. Larry

IN other words, you’re all in favour of freedom of expression for bigots and fascists, but not for those who call them out on it.

Not at all. I am in favour of both groups have freedom of expression. I simply recognise that no one else agrees any more. The Right tolerated the Hard Left. The Left has no intention of tolerating the Right back. Thus freedom is slowly dying. That is regrettable, because actually a society where people like Hobsbawm have the freedom to betray this country is better than a society where people like Hobsbawm are in power. We are moving from the former to the latter.

The Right tolerated the Hard Left.

That’s pretty rich coming from you, a supporter of a certain Spanish General whose attitude to the hard left was to kill as many of them as possible.

35

What’s Hobsbawn got to do with this debate other than being a non-christian and a rather good historian.

41. Just Visiting

Bob B

> Unsurprisingly, you haven’t addressed the questions put

Which question?

Here’s the acid test of your willingness to debate rationally Bob – are you willing to accept the truth that christians do not consider the OT to be a book of rules that have to be obeyed today?

That is a central facet of Christianity.

Do you accept that this is what christians say they believe? Yes or No ?

JV: “Do you accept that this is what christians say they believe? Yes or No ?”

Answer: No. From what I read on the web, evangelicals are saying the whole Bible is the Holy word of God.

From my POV, cherry picking bits from the Bible isn’t on. Christians of all varieties subscribe to the fundamental precept: Do unto others what you would have others do unto to you.

As I’ve posted many times, that seems a thoroughly bad ethical notion to me for many reasons. One is that others may not wish to be treated as I want to be treated because they have different personal preferences. Another is that all those paedo Catholic priests could claim to be doing just what they would want to have others do unto them.

I hope you will therefore agree that the fundamental ethical precept in the New Testament is something we should all reject.

43. Just Visiting

Bob B

> From what I read on the web, evangelicals are saying the whole Bible is the Holy word of God.

Nice one Bob – completely side-stepping my yes/no question.
By raising a new subject matter: ‘Holy word of god’.

This is question:

> that christians do not consider the OT to be a book of rules that have to be obeyed today?

Answer that, and we can have a meaningful dialogue and the debate can broaden out.

Over to you Bob: it’s a Yes or No answer.

JV: “Over to you Bob: it’s a Yes or No answer.”

You evidently have comprehension problems. I’ve already given my answer@42: NO.

Christians can’t cherry pick the Bible.

You have still not settled why anyone should regard apostle Paul as eternally infallible when he wrote/said women are not to preach.

And you haven’t resolved the issues with the precept Christians claim: Do unto others what you would have others do unto to you.

Which is patently unacceptable for the reasons spelled out @42.

45. So Much for Subtlety

39. Larry

That’s pretty rich coming from you, a supporter of a certain Spanish General whose attitude to the hard left was to kill as many of them as possible.

Well (a) it is true and (b) your claim isn’t. Franco did not try to kill as many as possible. In fact the Left survived the Franco years without too much trouble at all. He banned open political activity. He punished people guilty of actual crimes. But compare this with Hobsbawm’s dream – the USSR. No one, not even other Leftists, could continue to have any sort of existence in the USSR. Even suspicion that you might be a less than 100% committed Stalinist would get you executed. When Franco died, the Socialists were still there. When the USSR collapsed, there was no one.

Again we see with the Christian Union. British Christians have not tried to stop non-Christians organising and holding meetings for a long time. Perhaps even ever – since Britain ceased to be Catholic anyway. But even the moderate Left wants to ban some people from a purely voluntary act performed in private that has no impact whatsoever on anyone else. The difference is interesting.

46. Chaise Guevara

@ SMFS

“This is why there are no liberals left in Britain. People who call themselves that don’t mean it. Liberalism and civil liberties are not merely slowly dying but all but dead.”

Balls to that. You know me. You know I’m not a friend of Christianity, or any religion. But these guys are entitled to run their gang how they see fit. What are we gonna do, force women not to join the group then sanctimoniously tell them we’re doing it for their own good? People are entitled to do their own stuff their own way. That doesn’t change just because their views are politically incorrect.

Chaise: “But these guys are entitled to run their gang how they see fit. What are we gonna do, force women not to join the group then sanctimoniously tell them we’re doing it for their own good? People are entitled to do their own stuff their own way. That doesn’t change just ”

When I was a student, student societies were subsidised by the students’ union, out of student union fees, provided the societies didn’t discriminate against classes of students. That meant members of Con Soc could attend meetings organised by Lab Soc to listen to visiting speakers and put questions to the speakers and vice versa. In those days, long ago, we naively believed universities were about open discussion. It seems a bit odd when some religious soc wants to discriminate against women, seeing as how the majority of undergrads are now women.

A particularly odd choice of picture for this article for a number of reasons.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  4. Sunny Hundal

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  13. Tony Finch

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  15. Trisha Greenhalgh

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  17. John Doolan

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  24. Caroline Hooton

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  28. lannister

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  29. Steph Winteringham

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  30. Ming

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  32. Peter English

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  33. Oliver Mason

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    Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, it’s 2012.

  34. Simon Whitaker

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    Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, it’s 2012.

  35. Thomas Catterall

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    Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, it’s 2012.

  36. LoonWatch

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bristol Uni CU didn't ban women speakers. It's worse: it *kept* an existing ban http://t.co/qRxqY5va @loonwatchers

  37. Ali B

    RT @sunny_hundal: Bristol Uni CU didn't ban women speakers. It's worse: it *kept* an existing ban http://t.co/qRxqY5va @loonwatchers

  38. Joseph Gregoire

    Bristol Uni Christian Union maintains ban on women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7pVZYAN0 via @libcon

  39. doortje

    Bristol University Christian Union upholds ban on women speakers. http://t.co/UcKxKfZg

    Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, it’s 2012.

  40. Paul Bellamy

    Bristol University Christian Union upholds ban on women speakers. http://t.co/UcKxKfZg

    Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, it’s 2012.

  41. Tom Brock

    Bristol Uni Christian Union maintains ban on women speakers http://t.co/rWTVtcpL

  42. Eileen Cowen

    Bristol University Christian Union maintains ban on women speakers http://t.co/KELs9h8L via @zite

  43. Keithy Footbawll

    RT @sunny_hundal Bristol Uni Christian Union didn't ban women speakers. It's worse: it *kept* an existing ban http://t.co/qZr1EnaF

  44. walid ashoor

    Bristol Uni Christian Union maintains ban on women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bUC8ho6y via @libcon Ironic???

  45. Bristol Uni Christian Union Maintains Ban on Women | WhatIfTheyWereMuslim.com

    [...] Bristol Uni Christian Union maintains ban on women [...]

  46. Phoebe Lanzer Wood

    Bristol University Christian Union upholds ban on women speakers. http://t.co/UcKxKfZg

    Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, it’s 2012.

  47. Phoebe Lanzer Wood

    RT @sunny_hundal #Bristol Uni #Christian Union didn't ban women speakers. It's worse: it *kept* an existing ban http://t.co/K9VIXAYK





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