Anti-LGBTQ+ Christian group sues Cambridge college for ‘religious discrimination’

Elevated view of the skyline and spires of Cambridge and King's college.

An anti-LGBTQ+ Christian group has filed a lawsuit against a Cambridge college for alleged “discrimination” after refusing a conference booking.

Christian Concern is claiming discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, after Fitzwilliam College declined to host a planned event deemed “not compatible with the values of the college.

The group approached officials at Fitzwilliam College with a booking inquiry for an event it called the “Wilberforce Academy”, to be held from 5 to 10 September.

After the college staff conducted an external review of the group, its head of catering and events said there had been “concerns over the LGBT community” and an alleged opposition to gay marriage.

“That gave rise to concerns about the reaction of the college’s students if the booking was accepted,” barrister Yaaser Vanderman, who represented the college, said during a preliminary hearing on Thursday (15 September).

“The college informed the claimant that it had decided not to accept the bookings on the grounds that ‘the event is not compatible with the values of the college.”

Christian Concern steadfastly rejected the claims that it was not inclusive, despite agreeing that its perception of marriage is that it is only between a man and a woman.

Representing the group, barrister Alasdair Henderson said: “We were very concerned about the wider issues of free speech on campuses.”

Judge Ross concluded that there was an “issue to be tried” but that the claim was not suitable for High Court. A lower court trial date and location has not been announced yet.

He also noted that Christian Concern should choose a different tactic in county court.

Fitzwilliam College said it welcomed the court’s decision, adding: “The college continues to welcome conference bookings from a wide range of groups and organisations, with different beliefs and interests, including many religious groups.”

Christian Concern, which works to oppose UK equality laws, gained notoriety for various anti-LGBTQ+ claims, including a campaign urging people to turn up at a Vue cinema venue to watch a screening of a gay cure documentary.

“For over a decade, the Wilberforce Academy has run a one-week conference for university students and young professionals who want to work out how to apply their Christian faith in the current culture and, more specifically, within their chosen vocations including law, politics, education, media, arts, and business,” a spokesperson said in a statement after the hearing.

“The conference includes teaching on biblical beliefs that have been recognised by the Christian Church globally for the past 2,000 years.”