With all events where an external speaker is invited on behalf of the Students’ Guild, a risk assessment is undertaken, as is our duty of care to all attendees. This includes information about the speaker, however speakers are not screened, accepted or rejected based on their views, but on the safety of the event going ahead. The Guild uses online information available that contributes to assessing the risk of the event going ahead. The risk assessment includes requirement for speakers to comply with the law of the land, including the Equalities Act.
In the context of ECU and other affiliated religious groups, the Guild does not make decisions on invited speakers based on their religious beliefs – these are what they believe in their religion, and so protected by the Equalities Act. We completely adhere to the law when it comes to religious freedom. We are proactively working with the society to support them to deliver events with more understanding of the community in the future.
At the Guild we respect freedom of speech and religion. However, the Guild also have a set of core values of inclusivity, collaboration and empowering students, and we will always defend these values with our student community. We always want to create an open and safe environment, free from harassment, free from intimidation, for students to discuss and debate. This open debate is an important part of our society and we hope that any views that seek to reduce the inclusivity of our community are sufficiently challenged and individuals are free to reach their own conclusions, which are then respected by all.
"Inclusivity is an important aspect of our community and we would like to ensure that all our members are safe and free from harm. It is important that all views are respected and challenged in a safe way. I would encourage all groups on campus to run inclusive events, have honest discussions and respect each others views. Anyone that is affected by these issues can seek support from the Wellbeing team, Guild’s WID and report via the University’s Speak Out platform” VP Welfare and Diversity, Katie Heard
Statement from ECU:
"We have not seen the article that Expose News is publishing about the ECU today but we have been given information concerning its nature.
The ECU believes that all people have intrinsic dignity, equality and worth, being made in the image of God, regardless of race, faith, sexuality or any other characteristic. We therefore find the accusations levelled against the ECU deeply distressing since such an accusation goes to the core of our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.
The ECU, like any other society, uses the Forum and other public spaces on campus to interact with fellow students and to run and promote our events. We take the implication that members of the ECU interacted in a way which was hurtful and insensitive very seriously and hold our members to high standards of integrity and respect towards those they meet. Our aim is to engage in conversation in a positive and engaging way. When interacting with those we meet we do not intend to cause hurt, and sincerely apologise if this has ever been the case.
The aim of the ECU is to create an environment in which any student can explore the person and work of Jesus Christ for themselves – our STORY 2020 events gave every student the opportunity to do this in a public and accessible way. All of our events were consistent with the policies of Exeter University and Guild relating to freedom of speech, and the ECU complied with all the necessary regulations of the Guild and University regarding external speakers.
All necessary background checks were carried out on our speaker, and Dr Sach was considered a fit and proper person to speak at our events. We believe the accusation put to us by Exepose that he "held or expresses bigoted views about the LGBT+ community" to be baseless and defamatory.
During the Q&A after a lunch time event Dr Sach was asked a question in the context of a public and open forum. His answer was given with sensitivity and was entirely consistent with the official teaching of the Church of England concerning marriage. This should not be surprising since Dr Sach is an ordained minister of the Church of England. We do not accept that his answer constituted a homophobic remark, nor that it could possibly be defined as hate speech under current legal statutes. We therefore do not accept the upsetting accusations levelled against Dr Sach and the ECU on this matter
We find it very disappointing that Exepose are undermining the fundamental right of all students to freedom of speech by levelling these accusations against the ECU. The ECU believes that freedom of speech within the law is vital to ensuring the university remains a place of intellectual curiosity. It is in such an environment that all students flourish, and the ECU will aim to continue to contribute to this environment in a positive way."