USU threatens to deregister Evangelical Union

online USU story

The University of Sydney Union (USU) has threatened to deregister the Sydney University Evangelical Union (EU) from the Clubs & Societies program over the latter’s requirement that all members must make a declaration of faith in Jesus Christ.

The Board views the requirement as exclusive to participation in the society and a discriminatory religious litmus test for eligibility to join the society.

The EU has until the 31st March to change the constitutional requirement. This ultimatum was received by email on 17th February.

Article 3.2 of the EU’s constitution states that each member must sign a statement that they “desire in joining the EU to declare my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour, my Lord and my God”.

Members of the EU attended the USU Board meeting of Friday March 4 to petition the board to reconsider their position.

President of the EU, George Bishop, gave a three minute speech to the Board. In it, he cited human rights treaty provisions protecting freedom of religion. The EU has received formal legal advice on the matter.

Olivia Ronan, Vice President of the USU told Honi the Board saw the banning of identity requirements as “the best option for maximizing participation in the Clubs and Societies Program”.

“The foundations of the Program and of the USU are accessibility and inclusion, and to limit the candidates for election to Club Executives to those who ascribe to a particular faith is no less exclusionary than requiring candidates to be of a particular sexuality or gender identity.”

Regarding the USU’s alleged treaty obligations, Ronan further suggested that “complaints of that nature could be forwarded to the UN should they wish to pursue them” after noting that the USU is yet to sign an international treaty.

Bishop emphasised to Honi the distinction between society participants and those eligible to be members.

“The requirement is basically that to have the voting rights and be the leader of the Christian society, they need to be able to declare that Jesus is Lord,” he said.

“We are not trying to shut up shop or close borders. We provide subsidies for non-Christians to come to the events.”

The EU has further claimed that the timeline set by the USU on 17 February is procedurally unfair.

While Honi understands that the 17 February correspondence was the first time deregistration was raised, the matter has been in contention for five years and has been through multiple formal C&S processes.

Bishop further expressed dismay that the dispute had become so public. “This is essentially an internal and private issue. We believe that we’ve been acting in good faith throughout the whole discussion. Ultimately, what I care about is that the EU continues to exist and proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ on campus.”

A concern of the EU is the potential for atheist students to appropriate control of the society.

Ronan has suggested to Honi that comprehensive anti-stacking regulations applicable to all societies should suffice if they are needed.

  • Macq Tristan

    A sad day for diversity.

    how can USU say that they have a clubs and societies program of true diversity, if one of the larger groups on campus is unable to act to preserve its distinctivity by ensuring that their leadership are on-board with their core values?!

  • John Alexiadis

    let them deregister…Christians are used to vilification

  • Cindy Michel

    The Brotherhood, Recreation & Outreach Society needs to be deregistered as it is discriminatory towards women. Both the Association of Malaysian Students and the Australasian Union of Jewish Students need to be deregistered as they are discriminatory towards those who are non Jew and non Malaysian. The same applies for the Australian Chinese International Student Club. Both the Chocolate Society and Cheese Appreciation Society also as they exclude those who are lactose intolerant and/or vegan or simply do not like those food products. Are they Halal? If not, they would be excluding Muslims. I could keep going but the stupidity of this kind of reasoning is hurting.

    • brussels sprouts

      Yes, but all those other societies will still let you join if you don’t like chocolate or you aren’t Malaysian. They will probably think you’re weird for joining up (I probably would to), but you still can if you want to.

      • FireOverTheHorizon

        Would a non-Malaysian be allowed to lead though? Because that’s the point of contention.

        • Gerry Flower

          “A concern of the EU is the potential for atheist students to appropriate control of the society.

          Ronan has suggested to Honi that comprehensive anti-stacking regulations applicable to all societies should suffice if they are needed.”

          • FireOverTheHorizon

            Well that’s a non-answer if there ever was one.

          • Gerry Flower

            Potential problem identified – possible solution suggested. How is that a non-answer?

          • Not My Real Name

            Actually, stacking isn’t a vital issue, and a bit tangential to the quandary the EU is facing. The real problem for any group is ‘drift’.

            Without a clear and effective way of keeping a group ‘on track’ as far as its purpose and identity goes, it is easy for it to drift off in a direction none of the founders intended, especially in a campus setting where membership is never stable for more than twelve months. I don’t doubt that the reason the EU has been able to maintain a constant identity over many decades is the fact that it has a tight control over who votes for its leaders.

        • jumbo

          well a non Vietnamese student became president of VSA, so Yes. Non-Mayaysian would be allowed to lead, as long as that person gets elected

  • barrydavies

    Seems to be the PC brigade at it again, perhaps they could demand that women are given the same rights to pray in mosques and synagogs as men while they are at it.

  • dadashton

    Another fine example of one group attempting to impose it’s beliefs on another. For a group which claims tolerance as a virtue they show no tolerance for other views. Would the USU expect someone to join a political group without a commitment to that group’s ideology? It does not make any sense and is purely an act of prejudice.

    • brussels sprouts

      It might not make sense, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed. Everyone pays the student services ameninties, and should have equal access to club memberships. If the EU doesn’t like it, they can just disaffiliate from the USU and do their own thing. I suppose, are their values more important than the money the USU gives them?

      • dadashton

        Sneer al you want. it is not intellectually honest to treat different groups this way. It is prejudice pure and simple.

      • fsc

        USU does not provide any funding to the EU. The EU is self funded. Everyone is welcome to attend and join the EU – please read Byron Smith’s comment above.

    • Gerry Flower

      Are Christians being prevented from joining the EU? Of course not.

      It’s prejudice to ask all societies to adhere to the same criteria? Of course not. You might want to familiarise yourself with a dictionary before making silly statements like that…

      • dadashton

        Did I state anywhere that christians are being prevented from joining EU? Pay attention to what I did say.

        It’s a nonsense to suggest that all societies to use the same criteria. To think otherwise simply displays ignorance of both the rationale of different societies but also of the right we have to differ in thought and belief.

        The EU is being told that their beliefs and practices don’t matter, and they are to be replaced with another set imposed from an organization outside the EU.

        • Gerry Flower

          Um, I did pay attention to what you said. I simply pointed out that you used the word prejudice incorrectly.

          The members of the EU are free to believe what they like. To you use your own words “they [should] have the right to differ in thought and belief”. Or are you now saying the EU members should not have that right?

          • dadashton

            “Or are you now saying the EU members should not have that right?” Of course I am not.

            What you do not seem to understand is that practice follows belief. The EU is a christian organization, and to be a member one needs to a christian, especially to be involved.

            What the USU is attempting to do is amend belief by forcing a change in practice which is antithetical to that belief. It is also telling the EU that their beliefs are of less value then the those of the USU, who are acting according to theirs.

            This is not how freedom in a democracy works. Freedom of belief is a right declared and protected by the UN.

  • joni

    Will the same rigour be applied to the SU Muslim Students Association and their beliefs? Remember, they were upset that Mr Badar, the extremist the Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman was banned from the Sydney Opera House after it emerged he would attempt to defend honour killings of women and was to feature in a two-hour Q & A session ­inside USYD’s Carslaw Building.

  • ByronSmith

    As a lifetime member of the USU and a former SUEU president, this seems more than a little unreasonable.

    “The Board views the requirement as exclusive to participation in the society and a discriminatory religious litmus test for eligibility to join the society.”

    EU membership isn’t about who can participate in EU activities, which remain, as always, not just open to all, but sometimes annoyingly persistently invitingly open to all. If it is still anything like when I was around, the EU spends a huge amount of resources in making sure every student at USyd knows that they are more than welcome to join in activities and meetings, whether or not they are officially a member. EU membership is very largely about being able to stand for and elect EU leadership. Indeed, in contrast to most clubs and societies, the number of active EU participants is significantly larger than the number of members, rather than the other way round.

    The EU is amongst the oldest, largest and is almost certainly the most active (total student hours) of all the clubs and societies on campus. It has a long and rich history of relating to the Student Union, having contributed positively to countless USU events and initiatives over the years (including basically inventing the idea of O’Week), and has always (as far as I’m aware) remained studiously non-partisan when it came to USU politics.

    Isn’t it entirely reasonable for a religious organisation to require its leadership to identify as members of that faith? Who is harmed by it?

  • Becca

    A CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION expecting their members to be Christian!? What madness has the world been reduced to!?

    As a Wiccan woman I fully support keeping this group alive. I wouldn’t join them but the club isn’t for me. Just because it’s cool to hate Christians doesn’t give anyone the right to disband a group that THEY WOULDN’T HAVE FUCKING JOINED ANYWAY!

  • Steve Gethin

    Does the SU have a gay or women’s officer?

    • Watcher

      Unsurprisingly yes, her name is mentioned in the article. “Olivia Ronan” Sounds like your typical loud and proud PC progressive. She can certainly have whatever values she has, but what she’s fighting for is hypocritical and inconsistent, under the guise of “equality and inclusiveness” while violating Australian rights and values. She should be shutting down every religious group that has a similar requirement for presidency or membership. Obviously she won’t because she can’t have her reputation tarnished as an Islamophobe can she?

      There’s clearly a personal agenda involved with this proposition. There seems to be plenty of non-Christians and even Anti-Christians who completely support EU in their current requirements for membership.

  • Steve Gethin

    What legitimate interest can a non-Christian seriously have in joining a Christian society? This is simply harrassment of Christians, because the SU is “officially” atheist, and it despises them. It’s like arguing that a guy should be able to join the AFL club and then, in the middle of the game, start playing League.

    • Brien

      “A student religious group is being told that they may no longer be registered to use University facilities or receive the financial support other groups receive.”

  • Not My Real Name

    What we have here are people who aren’t keen on the idea of groups actually overseeing the running of groups! The whole point of interest groups on campus is that they are narrow. That’s why they exist. They put you in touch with people of similar background or interests or beliefs. There is value in that in life, especially on a campus where you are daily knocked around in the hurly burly of anonymous crowds.

    It follows that the more group-like a club is, the more restricted its membership will be. Some are happy if others of different interests join in, but every group will want some way of guarding its identity. The EU has its own way of doing that, which seems an entirely reasonable way of maintaining itself – i.e. ensuring that those who vote for its office bearers agree totally with the ethos of the club. Trying to make interest groups open to as wide a range of people as possible is running in the exact opposite direction to where groups are trying to go.

  • Not My Real Name

    The more I think about this, the more bizarre it seems.

    The USU is basically a big club and its membership is restricted, i.e. to those with some formal connection to Sydney Uni (the eligibility list is long but clearly excludes many, many people). And if you’re not a USU member you don’t have “the right to attend or to vote at USU General Meetings or in USU elections” ( point 2 (v)). In other words, you can’t vote for the USU leadership without being a member.

    This is exactly the same as the SUEU set up. Only members can vote for the leadership and not just anyone can become a voting member. Membership is restricted to a clearly defined group of people.

    But now we have the USU wanting to penalise the EU for having exactly the same structure as the USU itself. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

    • Brien

      “A student religious group is being told that they may no longer be registered to use University facilities or receive the financial support other groups receive”

  • O Platon

    The USU is barking mad on this. As others have pointed out well, the EU is one of the most inclusive groups on campus (to the point of being annoying). It has every right to expect that the smaller group of people who decide how the group is run will have a shared belief, i.e. God. Just like the SU Rugby side would expect that its players have the shared goal, i.e. helping SUFC to win. There is no infringement on anyone’s rights going on here, just the USU trying to bully smaller groups. Seriously, don’t they have more important things to do?

  • Jason Alexander

    it certianly wouldn’t even be considered against a muslim group

  • Brien

    “A student religious group is being told that they may no longer be registered to use University facilities or receive the financial support other groups receive”
    They are still allowed to exist!
    Nobody is taking any ‘rights’ away!
    Nobody is forcing them to accept the ‘unbelievers’ and ‘others’ into their ranks and administration!
    Let me repeat the above one more time as this is the relevant issue here – not freedom of religion:
    “…they may no longer be registered to use University facilities or receive the financial support other groups receive”!

    • be humble

      Mate I’m fairly certain people are way past that point… you’ve been repeating yourself for no avail because people are discussing why the union would do such a thing as de-register them

      • Brien

        I am repeating myself because there is nothing to discuss since the ‘why the union would do such a thing as de-register them’ is already a moot point’.
        They have broken the rules that they agreed to follow in the first place. Why are you wasting our time is the more important question – move on!!

        • Not My Real Name

          Brien, just to respond to a couple of points you’re making.

          You have written ‘They have broken the rules that they agreed to follow in the first place.’ I’m not sure where you got that impression. The EU has been in existence for decades as a registered club. The current power holders in the USU now want to change the rules in a way which will disadvantage the EU. It’s hardly surprising they are baulking at this.

          This move will certainly disadvantage what must be one of the largest groups on campus. If they give up their membership system they will lose integrity as a group in the long term, or if they stick by their guns and are deregistered they will find themselves disadvantaged in other ways. It will become difficult to function on the university campus in terms of getting access to facilities, O week and so on.

          Thus to say ‘Nobody is taking any ‘rights’ away’ is quite misleading. Whether you call them a ‘right’ or a ‘privilege’, the various advantages that come with being a USU affiliated club are being specifically threatened. You’re right in saying freedom of religion isn’t the issue here. It is the right of a large student group to get on with what it does without being goofed around by a tiny group of student bureaucrats.

        • Peter Green

          EU has had pretty much these rules since 1930, and, for some 80 years, there was never a problem as far as the Students’ Union is concerned. You can hardly accuse EU of “breaking the rules they agreed to follow”. USU was still emerging from being a debating club when EU was established.

          Historically, EU sprang from the Student Christian Movement which, when I was at Sydney, seemed to be based in a cupboard under the stairs in the main building, and has now disappeared entirely. SCM had been at Sydney for some 25 years before the division. SCM was seen in some circles as mainly Not EU and Not Hillsong and Not as anti-religious as other Left groups. Not a clear indication of purpose.

          So it can be said that EU’s roots extend back to the opening years of last century.

          Considering that the demise of SCM might be attributed in part to its very much more fluid sense of purpose, it is understandable that EU might be highly reluctant to shed its membership rules

          I am reliably informed that EU refuses funding from the USU, having made that decision some years ago.

          Nevertheless, deregistration would entail marginalisation of the hitherto largest and most active group on campus, as they would lose access not only to meeting rooms, but to participation in Orientation Week, and use official channels to advertise activities.

          Under the circumstances, it is hard not to see the USU’s moves to redefine the nature of EU as aimed to minimise its involvement with the university or to force it out, particularly in light of the President’s dismissive attitude to appeals to UN charters.

          Disclaimer: I am an evangelical, but have never been an EU member despite some 10 years at university.

    • प्रभात गुप्त Prabhat Gupta
  • John Torkildsen

    Truly pathetic, no doubt the Stalin fan club is suitably funded.

  • प्रभात गुप्त Prabhat Gupta

    Dear Good Christian People – Can you offer Mutual respect instead of tolerance as touted by Catholic Church and other churches world wide?

    To see what I mean read these:


    Once you understand this article, please, as good christians, ask for Mutual Respect for all religions and just not Hindus.

    • Brien

      Oh I do understand this concept of mutual respect and tolerance.
      I just do not agree with it for any good reason.
      Those two articles were written with respect to only the religion’s benefits and privileges.

      These religions are based on lies and the founders had beliefs from the stone age. These beliefs themselves are intolerant of all others’ beliefs.

      This idea of mutual respect and tolerance stem from the days of religious power mongering and constant wars. It is also called a truce!

      In this present day we have a new group – the irreligious and atheists who have been persecuted from the very beginning, and now armed with the common sense and facts of science.

      These vile controlling religions no longer hold that power of life and death over the population (except Islam, because it is still mired in the dark ages).

      • प्रभात गुप्त Prabhat Gupta

        So you only endorse Christianity as legitimate? Rest all are Heathens?
        And hence legitimate targets for proselytisation?

        • Brien

          Exactly how did you get the idea that I endorse the Christians. You seem to have already decided what you think the truth is for you regardless of fact. Sounds like the logic of a theist to me who will choose whatever answers that suit the agenda.

          Now that we have realised your level of naivete, I will tell you that the two articles you recommend are precisely why we have problems with religion.
          They are both based on the author’s belief of a god, something which in itself is a fallacy, (unable to prove = a lie) thus any gems of wisdom and logical analysis have absolutely no basis in truth and reality. They are presumptive and ‘faith’ articles.

          Therefore all that you want to discuss is, at best, hypothetical, and if like the articles which are actually apologist and denial rubbish imitating an academic and scholarly treatise, we have nothing more to discuss.

          • प्रभात गुप्त Prabhat Gupta

            Yes I am naive in assuming that you would have understood. I am a theist and I have no problem in what you choose.

            My only point was that people who believe in god should offer Mutual Respect as opposed to tolerance.

            Sadly the Christians do not do it and hence proselytise.

            Even more sad is the fact that you have not understood this.

            So yes I am naive and you are indeed wise.

        • Brien

          Forgot to add – religions do not deserve any respect whatsoever for the fact that they are founded on lies.
          Religions deserve to be mocked, ridiculed and even insulted.

          Insulted for the reason that their self-centred logic, and the rules and ‘truths’ which stem from this warped logic, is an insult to human intelligence.

          At least the Judeo-Christian groups are somewhat domesticated having gone through periods of enlightenment, and psychological readjustment having had to deal with freedom and democracy. The industrial revolution emphasised human rights and civil freedoms which forced the western religions to come to terms with reality.

          It is Islam which insists on staying stagnant in the primitive state of its demented creator. It is a horrible blight on humanity.

          No, religions of today need to join their fellow mythologies and die out.

          • प्रभात गुप्त Prabhat Gupta

            Nice try!