Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2002

Campus Alpha: the voice of one crying in the wilderness

Secular campaigners are incensed that the controversial and homophobic Alpha movement – which provides induction courses into fundamentalist Christianity – is infiltrating university campuses all over the UK.

Around 60 per cent of UK universities now allow Alpha courses to be held on campus – and often with students’ approval.

One of the latest has been York University, where a lone voice among one of the student bodies failed to halt courses in a university junior common room, which is run by students. John Rose tried in vain to get students to disallow the Alpha course at Derwent College, but was overwhelmingly defeated. Fellow students said it was a question of free speech.

Rose did not even get support from the university’s LGBSoc, but contacted the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) for help.

GALHA has for some time now been leading the campaign against Alpha. When ITV screened a ten-week Alpha course – in effect a long-running free advertisement that would normally have cost millions of pounds – GALHA’s secretary, George Broadhead, said: “The danger lies in Alpha’s attractive packaging and marketing. It is not until you are well into it that the unpleasant bits become apparent.”

In a news release, GALHA condemned the programme as “homophobic and the biggest Christian propaganda campaign ever seen on British television”.

GALHA has been joined by a new campaign called Gay Men Against Alpha (GMAA), which has condemned the university authorities for allowing hatred towards homosexuals to be preached on university premises.

GMAA said the university had abdicated its responsibility of care towards its students, many of whom will be coming to terms with their sexuality and the trauma of moving into a new environment, and will seek the seeming comfort of an Alpha group, which will appear to be welcoming and appealing.

Hilary Layton, public relations officer for the university, said the university would not interfere if an activity was not against the law.

The founder of the Alpha movement, Nicky Gumbel, says in his book Searching Issues (using quotations from biblical sources) that homosexuality involves “shameful lusts”, and he refers to gay people as “homosexual offenders”. In an article headed “Catch me if you can” in the Guardian in October 2000, Gumbel said that gay people “need to be healed” and likened gay men to paedophiles.

Dr Allan Hall, a GALHA member who lectures at York and whom GALHA’s secretary, George Broadhead, contacted after Rose appealed to the organisation for guidance, says he offered support to Rose. He could not attend the vote, and thought, anyway, that, since such things were student matters, it would not be appropriate for him to be there.

But he told Broadhead that he was “very concerned” that Rose did not get support from the LGBSoc, although the university’s LGB officer was “on board”.

George Broadhead said that anyone concerned about the Alpha movement should contact GALHA on 01926 858450.

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Created : Sunday, 2002-05-05 / Last updated : Monday, 2008-03-31
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