By Gudrun Schultz

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom, January 25, 2006 ( – Birmingham University’s Christian Union members found themselves without funds or facilities recently, due in part to their refusal to include gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered persons in their constitution.

Christian Union (CU) members say their bank accounts were frozen and they were suspended from the Birmingham Guild of Students after they objected to making changes to their constitution. The students’ guild wanted them to open membership to people of all faiths and beliefs, and to ensure a Guild member sat on the Union’s board.

As well, they were asked to change the wording of their constitution, which refers to “men” and “women.” The CU was advised that use of the terms “men” and “women” could be seen as an exclusion of transsexual and transgendered people.

The Union is taking legal action against the Guild. Union members say they have agreed to redraft some policies, but they maintain the union should not be forced to open up membership for people who do not support their beliefs.

Andy Weatherley, who is a CU staff worker at the University, said all organizations within the student union should be allowed to restrict membership and leadership positions to those who fully share their beliefs, in an interview with the Guardian, including the CU.

“While our meetings are open to all people, believers and unbelievers, when it comes to being a voting member or leader of the Christian union we feel it is perfectly respectable to restrict access to people who call themselves Christians.”

Pod Bhogal is the communications director at the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, which supports all Christian Unions in the country. He said the guild’s demands were “draconian” and said it was curtailing the unions freedom of speech.

“We would not dream of telling a Muslim group or apolitical society how to elect their leaders or who could or could not become a member, that’s entirely a matter to them, based on their own faith principles. The same applies to a CU.”

The Christian Union has been operating at the University for 76 years. It currently has over 100 regular members who participate.