Edinburgh University is set to ban Bibles from its student halls of residence amid concern that the Holy Book is “discriminatory” and makes students of other faiths feel unwelcome.
The move is the result of protests from the students’ association and is being considered in an effort to pursue a policy of “evenly supporting all faiths”, a university spokesman said yesterday.
A Gideon Bible is traditionally placed in every new student’s room at the start of the academic year and there are currently around 2,000 Bibles in the Pollock Halls campus on the edge of Holyrood Park.
Their distribution is now seen as inappropriate and potentially offensive to non-Christians. The student body is drawn from 120 countries and represents a broad spectrum of faiths, it is argued.
Ruth Cameron, president of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, said yesterday that it was important that students from different cultures were made to feel welcome. “The student association strongly believes in the importance of ensuring that students of all faiths feel at home in their university accommodation,” she said.
“We simply don’t want to be seen promoting one religion over another. This is not about attacking Christianity. It is about respecting diversity.”
The proposal will be voted on by the student association and is then expected to be rubber stamped by the university.
Two years ago Edinburgh University stopped saying prayers at its graduation ceremonies for similar reasons.
This year Stirling University was forced to abandon plans to remove 6,000 Bibles from its student halls after a storm of protest from offended Christians. As a compromise the university instead invited all religious groups to supply copies of their holy texts.
The Reverend John Munro, a former chaplain at Stirling University, said at the time that withdrawing any book from a place of study smacked of intolerance. “I think there’s an agenda here, seemingly politically correct, but there’s actually a hostility towards faith by those who have none. This is repeating the worst errors which the Christian faith used to have,” he said.
An Edinburgh University spokesman said: “The University of Edinburgh does its best to take the wishes of the student body into account. Further meetings will now determine if, when and how this will be implemented.
“The student body is made up of diverse faith backgrounds which are evenly supported by the University Chaplaincy which pursues a policy of supporting all faiths and none.”
Gideons International distribute more than 63,000,000 copies of its Bible worldwide every year and many appear in hotel rooms, hospitals and prisons.
The Reverend John Lowry, of Niddrie Parish Church in Edinburgh, said: “It is very disappointing from our point of view. But I can understand why people have chosen to do this.”