By Mike Archer. Freedom of religion is, although not nearly as sacrosanct as many who have been educated on American pop television would believe, nonetheless a fundamental right and freedom protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights.
So is the right to be free from persecution based on one’s sexual preferences.
Therein lies the fundamental conflict between what Langley’s Trinity Western University (TWU) is asking for and what the society in which it operates will allow.
The Christian religion was once based on inclusiveness, forgiveness and love. More and more it has begun to define itself on the basis of exclusivity, distrust, enmity, hatred and prejudice.
According to TWU …
Trinity Western University, in its 50th year, is pleased to have submitted a proposal today for a new School of Law to be located at the Langley campus of the university. Establishing a law school has been on the strategic plan for the university for many years and fits well with the University’s mission to develop Godly leaders for the marketplaces of life. The School of Law will be TWU’s seventh school, adding to the current Schools of Business, Nursing, Education, Human Kinetics, Arts, Media + Culture, and Graduate Studies, as well as two Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences and Natural and Applied Sciences.
The University is proposing to offer a J.D. program of studies with a view to excellence in leadership development, professionalism and public service. The University proposes a class size of 60 per year of a three year program, ensuring small classes in keeping with the University’s student focus. The program will be intellectually rigorous and have a practical curriculum with a strong skills focus. Students will have required practica experiences, giving them hands-on experiences with law firms, NGOs and government offices.
In addition to all traditional areas of law, students will have the opportunity to specialize in “Charities and Social Justice” or “Entrepreneurial” law, with the possibility of exploring legal approaches to social enterprise and social innovation.
TWU established a strong advisory council, comprised of lawyers and judges, to assist with the development of the proposal. We have consulted broadly with the legal community, including lawyers, judges, academics and professional organizations.
Plans are in the works to construct a new signature building on campus to house the School of Law if required approvals are obtained from the BC Ministry of Advanced Education and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. We anticipate approvals to take approximately 6 – 12 months and, if approved, we hope to welcome our first class of students in September 2015.
For more information read the proposal FAQ.
A Serious Misunderstanding
There exists a misunderstanding of what freedom of religion means that is inherent in the TWU proposal. While the TWU proposal relies heavily on the 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision which allowed TWU to continue its practice of discriminating against gays, lesbians and those who have sex prior to marriage because it is a Religious School, the proposal fails to deal with its responsibilities were it to become a Law School.
For argument’s sake let us take the extreme case of a cult who religious beliefs do not align themselves with the mainstream. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees members of that cult the right to believe what they want so long as they do not infringe on the beliefs or rights of others.
TWU fits this description.
The Supreme Court decision allowed TWU, under its Charter protection, to believe and teach whatever it wants because it defines itself as a religious university.
It is unlikely that a gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, or sexually active, unmarried person would knowingly seek out TWU based on their required code of conduct and their stated definition as a religious university.
A law school, however, is something entirely different.
A law school teaches Canadian law and prepares students for their bar exams.
It does not teach beliefs or interpretations of the law based on religion, views on gay or extra marital sex or any of the thousands of beliefs held by the hundreds of religions which exist under the protection of the Charter of Rights.
It is one of the reasons we do not have Sharia Law in Canada. Sharia Law is the moral code and religious law of Islam. While it is accepted as a moral code and a religious belief it does not constitute the law of the land. While it is protected as a belief it has no standing in Canada’s courts.
It is difficult to understand why TWU would consider its religious beliefs to be superior to, or different than, Sharia law, or any other religious law which does not conform to TWU’s restrictive code of conduct, and it is shocking that TWU would consider itself to be above other religious institutions in its right to participate in secular processes and activities.
It is perfectly acceptable for TWU to study law from its own religious perspective but to pretend that its perspective has any more validity than any other cult or religion is rude, offensive and unfair.
If TWU believes that some god somewhere does not accept gays, lesbians or those who have sex before the Christian ritual of marriage into heaven that is their business. The law guarantees them that freedom.
To pretend that discriminating against gays, lesbians and those who have sex before marriage entitles them to teach students about Canadian law, train them for the Bar and create acceptable lawyers in a multicultural society which values and protects personal freedom over religious doctrine shows an incredible disrespect for the very law that protects their freedom to teach according to the tenets of their own particular cult.
Would TWU agree that a school devoted to the belief that right wing Christian ideologues should be marginalized or made illegal for their discrimination and persecution of those with different beliefs and sexual preferences should be allowed to train and certify lawyers?
TWU serves a useful purpose to its congregation/followers. It provides a christian-based view of the world to its students who pay for the privilege of the particular indoctrination the school provides. Much like porn theatres provide a service to those who seek relief within their walls TWU provides spiritual relief for those who choose to drink its particular brand of Kool Aid.
To pretend that belief and dogma are in any way related to the law which provides them with the very protection allowing them to preach and impose their discriminatory and hateful beliefs is an insult to the society which allows them to operate their mean, malevolent and unchristian cult within a permissive yet caring and benevolent society.
No matter what TWU’s god thinks of gays, lesbians, transgendereds, bisexuals and otherwise perfectly normal sexually active human beings on the planet who do not conform to their strange and restrictive sexual practices Canadian law protects both TWU and its victims.
Allowing TWU to call itself a Law School while breaking one of the most fundamental of Canadian laws would make a mockery of the very laws which protect its own right to enforce discriminatory, prejudicial and hateful practices.