Concerns have been raised regarding the homophobic behaviour of a representative of the University of York Christian Union (UYCU) during the society’s ‘Text-A-Pancake’ event on 17 February.
The event involves students texting the society a question about Christianity and then receiving a pancake delivered to their accommodation block alongside the answer to their question.
A student residing in Alcuin College told Nouse that four representatives from the UYCU arrived at a first-year accommodation block after one of the flats asked: “Why does God hate gay people?”
A woman acting as a member of the society was said to have made homophobic and offensive comments towards the students, some of whom defined as LGBTQ.
During the visit, one of the four representatives, a young female, revealed that she was not a student at the University. However, this was not made clear at the time, and students have raised concerns that the UYCU allowed non-students to say such inflammatory remarks on their behalf.
The woman in question expressed a number of views including “love the sinner, hate the sin” in reference to homosexuality, and said that homosexuals should “abstain” from both relationships and marriage.
A student who spoke to the UYCU members in question said: “I thought that I was done with that kind of homophobia way before university, so to come here and to have someone act like I’m a problem, with a massive smile on their face, when you’re not expecting it and all you want is a pancake, is just tiring and upsetting.”
The UYCU have since apologised and the incident is being investigated. Similar experiences have also been reported. A former college tutor, who also identifies as LGBTQ, said: “I had lots of friends who were active within the Christian Union throughout university and I rarely felt uncomfortable around them. The views these Christian Union members have expressed aren’t particularly inflammatory given their religion, but I am surprised and upset that they would voice those views within a private, safe accommodation space.”
The concerns were brought to the attention of Sophie Jorgensen-Rideout, LGBTQ Officer for Alcuin College, who said: “Another student informed me that a Christian Union group had come into their flat during the ‘Text-A-Pancake’ day and responded to their question of LGBTQ acceptance within the church with an inappropriate comment.
“I reported this to Dominic Smithies [Chair of Alcuin College] as it was clear to me that it’s unacceptable for them to do this. We’ve reached a resolution with them, and I hope this situation doesn’t repeat itself as it’s not acceptable to voice these views – especially not to come into someone’s home and do so.”
Maddie Boden, speaking on behalf of LGBTQ Network, told Nouse: “We accept that there should be a diverse range of societies and organisations on campus that represent the broad interests and beliefs of all students on campus.
“However, the LGBTQ Network does not believe that homosexuality [being] a sin is one [that should be promoted] and we are incredibly disappointed to hear that students in the Christian Union, during a Christian Union event, were promoting that message without solicitation in an accommodation block.
“People have a right to their individual beliefs but the Network believes individuals also have a right to live their lives with any sexual orientation, gender identity, and right to a relationship if they so wish.
“The sort of sentiments expressed by this Christian Union member have no place at an event run by a YUSU-approved society and we would expect a full apology from the Christian Union.”
The UYCU committee responded to the complaints by saying: “The University of York Christian Union wants to make all of our activities engaging and welcoming to all students regardless of their religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
“It is never our intention to cause offence to anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation, and we are very sorry if this is perceived to have happened.”
Policy thirteen of the University’s Policy on Religion, Belief and Non-Belief states: “All members of the University community have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. However, if beliefs are promoted in a way that impinges on the rights and freedoms of others, this may result in disciplinary action.”
Chris Wall, Student Activities Officer, expressed his disappointment at the incident. He said: “We are investigating as no student should be made to feel uncomfortable in their own college. There are also concerns to be addressed about non-student members representing societies. If anyone has any issues like this in future we encourage students to report them immediately to YUSU and their college welfare team.”