Bob Kuhn Responds To ‘Change The Covenant’

By June 19, 2014Issues

Dear Editor, In response to the editorial on June 17, “Change the Covenant,” I wish to clarify a number of things and respond to a few more.

First, the current TWU Community Covenant was finalized in 2009 after an 18-month consultation process with students, staff, faculty, and administration. It is not “antiquated” but both recent and current. Because a religious community like TWU retains a traditional definition of marriage does not mean that it is anti-gay or homophobic. A plain reading of the Community Covenant discloses that the TWU community is committed to the highest aspirations of Christian virtues, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, compassion, humility, forgiveness, peacemaking, mercy, and justice.

Second, Dr. John Redekop is not a faculty member at TWU and was not at the time he wrote the commentary on Sharia law. Even had he been, TWU faculty members have academic freedom and are free to express their personal views on any particular subject they may wish, but in doing so they do not speak for the Trinity Western University. Likewise, Lindsey Mayhew is entitled to her personal views on the Community Covenant. While she is quite correct in her conclusion that LGBT students are welcomed as part of the TWU community, your extrapolation of the opinion of one student to the whole student body is as inappropriate as assuming that your opinion is representative of the whole of your readership.

Now, let me address your opinion. You state, without qualification, numerous conclusions that are both incorrect in fact and in law. Further, you fail to mention a number of key facts:

  • TWU is a private Christian University (as defined in its charter legislation).
  • TWU’s Mission Statement defines its purpose: “… to develop godly Christian leaders…” Students who seek such an educational environment choose to go to TWU, whereas those who do not value our community culture may choose to go elsewhere.
  • In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that TWU was lawfully entitled to maintain its community covenant and graduate fully qualified teachers into the public school system. Since that decision is directly comparable to the current situation and is still the law, it is curious that it was not even referenced in your editorial. After all, as you referenced, the rule of law plays a crucial role in our society.
  • You also seem to have forgotten about the Civil Marriage Act, which legalized same-sex marriages in 2005, but clearly states that “…no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction … solely by reason of their … expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others …”
  • Before you accuse me of “picking a fight,” perhaps you need to refer to the fact that the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and the Law Society of British Columbia benchers fully approved TWU’s proposed School of Law, each after extensive review.

You state, “Canadians are quite accepting of other people’s views, spiritual beliefs, politics, sexual preferences and religions.” However, is the editor of Abbotsford Today similarly accepting? “Not so much, it turns out.” Blaming the Abbotsford homeless situation on the Christian community and our older citizens is unfair, without any factual basis, and shows a complete lack of respect for both groups.

The people of faith and the elders of our community deserve better, even amidst the rhetoric of a news editorial. Tolerance is a two-way street. It’s that simple.

Bob Kuhn

President, Trinity Western University

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • The Editor says:

    CK Says

    Mr. Kuhn, I notice a few things after reading both posts. (change the covenant and your reaction).
    First, I checked to see what the latest news is on your proposed law school and I found this in Macleans:
    BC lawyers have rejected your plan.

    I think the most important part of that story is this:

    Lawyers who spoke against the school on Tuesday frequently invoked historic struggles for the rights of black people, women and other groups, while also noting that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people still face discrimination today.

    By having your covenant, you discriminate in my view. Which is fine, as long as you do your thing within the walls of your school.
    But if I ever am in need of a lawyer and have to rely on Legal Aid, then I am entitled to a lawyer who will defend me, no matter my preferences in anything.
    To use part of a quote by Pierre Trudeau: you have no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

    I decided to look up the Model Code of Professional Conduct for a Lawyer in Canada. It says nothing about your covenant but it does say that rules of conduct should assist, not hinder, lawyers in providing legal services to the public in a way that ensures the public interest is protected. Your covenant stands in the way of that. Plain and simple sir.

    For your reading enjoyment here it is:
    One of the hallmarks of civilized society is the Rule of Law. Its importance is manifested in every legal activity in which citizens engage, from the sale of real property to the prosecution of murder to international trade. As participants in a justice system that advances the Rule of Law, lawyers hold a unique and privileged position in society. Self-regulatory powers have been granted to the legal profession on the understanding that the profession will exercise those powers in the public interest. Part of that responsibility is ensuring the appropriate regulation of the professional conduct of lawyers. Members of the legal profession who draft, argue, interpret and challenge the law of the land can attest to the robust legal system in Canada. They also acknowledge the public’s reliance on the integrity of the people who work within the legal system and the authority exercised by the governing bodies of the profession. While lawyers are consulted for their knowledge and abilities, more is expected of them than forensic acumen. A special ethical responsibility comes with membership in the legal profession. This Code attempts to define and illustrate that responsibility in terms of a lawyer’s professional relationships with clients, the Justice system and the profession.
    The Code sets out statements of principle followed by exemplary rules and commentaries, which contextualize the principles enunciated. The principles are important statements of the expected standards of ethical conduct for lawyers and inform the more specific guidance in the rules and commentaries. The Code assists in defining ethical practice and in identifying what is questionable ethically. Some sections of the Code are of more general application, and some sections, in addition to providing ethical guidance, may be read as aspirational. The Code in its entirety should be considered a reliable and instructive guide for lawyers that establishes only the minimum standards of professional conduct expected of members of the profession. Some circumstances that raise ethical considerations may be sufficiently unique that the guidance in a rule or commentary may not answer the issue or provide the required direction. In such cases, lawyers should consult with the Law Society, senior practitioners or the courts for guidance.
    A breach of the provisions of the Code may or may not be sanctionable. The decision to address a lawyer’s conduct through disciplinary action based on a breach of the Code will be made on a case-by-case basis after an assessment of all relevant information. The rules and commentaries are intended to encapsulate the ethical standard for the practice of law in Canada. A failure to meet this standard may result in a finding that the lawyer has engaged in conduct unbecoming or professional misconduct.
    Approved December 2012 page 8
    The Code of Conduct was drafted as a national code for Canadian lawyers. It is recognized, however, that regional differences will exist in respect of certain applications of the ethical standards. Lawyers who practise outside their home jurisdiction should find the Code useful in identifying these differences.
    The practice of law continues to evolve. Advances in technology, changes in the culture of those accessing legal services and the economics associated with practising law will continue to present challenges to lawyers. The ethical guidance provided to lawyers by their regulators should be responsive to this evolution. Rules of conduct should assist, not hinder, lawyers in providing legal services to the public in a way that ensures the public interest is protected. This calls for a framework based on ethical principles that, at the highest level, are immutable, and a profession that dedicates itself to practise according to the standards of competence, honesty and loyalty. The Law Society intends and hopes that this Code will be of assistance in achieving these goals.

    From Langley Today:

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