MONCTON, NB, May 9, 2014/ Troy Media/ – The debate surrounding whether Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, B.C., should be allowed to have a law faculty has been rife with intolerance; the bulk of which is directed at Christians themselves.
Many argue that Trinity Western, which requires its students and faculty members to sign a “Community Covenant” that includes a promise to abstain from sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, is discriminatory against homosexuals, and as such it should not be allowed to have a law faculty.
Truth be told, TWU does not discriminate only against gays or lesbians. It also discriminates against heterosexuals who have extramarital affairs or sex before marriage. In other words, it discriminates against people who do not share their understanding of Christian values. And for the reasons that follow, in this case it is reasonable to do so. For good reason, TWU indeed deserves a law school.
First of all, the right against discrimination is not absolute. According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such rights are only available as long as they are reasonably justified within a free and democratic society.
We discriminate against other people all the time. Employers discriminate against candidates with less experience and education; in our personal lives we discriminate in favour of persons who share common interests and have a positive effect on our lives. There is good reason to do so.
Trinity Western is an example of a community that has laid out clear criteria for entry: people are free to choose or decline to join in it. Interfering with their ability to do so violates not only their right to religious freedom (which is also guaranteed by the Charter), but also their right to freedom of association, and more importantly, of freedom of belief.
We would not accept that a man should be permitted entrance to a women-only exercise facility merely because he has a right not be discriminated against. There are valid reasons for so doing: some women feel more comfortable working out without men around, and they appreciate having a space where they can feel safe, with others who feel the same. Neither would we tolerate a person joining a Chinese-language association who insisted on speaking English because they felt they had the right to do so; this would simply go completely against the very purpose of such a group.
Arguing that students at TWU should not have the right to their beliefs about marriage or the sanctity of monogamy is a brutal attack on the freedom of conscience. The fact that this misguided attack is made in the name of justice and tolerance only makes it more illogical and repugnant.
But this is only a response to the arguments against Trinity Western. What positive arguments exist in favour of permitting the creation of a Christian law school?
What should be most surprising about discussion about whether TWU should have a law faculty is how little of the discussion is about the law itself.
The reason that the BC Law Society accepted its application is because they have an objectively sound basis for their application. Their program meets national standards, according to the Approval Committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. The same committee noted that TWU will also provide adequate building facilities and library resources for students.
Indeed, some members had concerns as to whether a faculty that forbids gay sex would be able to educate without bias on areas of public law pertaining to the right against discrimination, or professional ethics. A second committee formed by the Federation of Law Societies to address these concerns found them to be without merit. As they put it, “There is no evidence that such individuals are any less capable of critical thinking or any less likely to conduct themselves ethically than any other members of the bar or the bench.”
In other words, there is no reason to believe that a lawyer trained at a Christian law faculty will read the laws any differently. And why would they? It’s not as if they are going to be using different textbooks.
Forgiveness, advocacy for the weak and downtrodden, and above all, unconditional love for our fellow human beings are all core Christian values. In a society experiencing serious problems with Access to Justice, where money is all too often the deciding factor on whether a person’s voice is heard in our legal system, we desperately need more lawyers who have Christian beliefs.
Lawyers educated at a school with explicit Christian values still have to practice the law in the same manner as any other lawyer. All lawyers are subject to the scrutiny and oversight of their provincial Law Society and are bound by the same code of professional conduct. Irrespective of one’s personal opinions, religious or otherwise, all lawyers must fulfill their professional obligation to advocate for their client, whatever their own personal beliefs are.
Which begs the question: why does our society hold Christians to a different standard?
One only needs to peruse Twitter to see how Trinity Western is being ignorantly attacked by commentators, called everything from “bigoted” to “absolutely disgusting”, compared to the KKK, and worse. Sadly, it seems our culture has accepted the somewhat perverted premise that it is okay to insult, judge, and otherwise malign Christian beliefs and values.
Snap judgments, such as because Christians believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage they as a consequence hate homosexual people, are not only wrong, but demonstrate deeper prejudices against Christianity in general.
Regardless of your stance on gay-marriage or your personal religious beliefs, you should be outraged at the tone of the public discourse on this matter and the approaches being taken. In what twisted universe does forcing TWU’s community to change or hide their religious beliefs to suit the opinions of others in order to be accepted either improve diversity or tolerance? Isn’t this the exact same perverted logic of conformity that led to the persecution of gays and lesbians in the first place?
Proponents of gay marriage often make the argument that if two people who love each other want to make their union official and public, it has no real effect on heterosexual’s lives. The same principle should apply to Christian faculties; if a community with shared beliefs wants to set clear criteria for entry that does not affect their ability to learn or practice the law (and furthermore in an environment where a sexually active gay person would likely not want to be in the first place), they should be allowed to do so, free from judgment or interference by others.
Let Trinity Western have its law faculty. It deserve it.
Nelson Peters has a degree in Civil law from Universite Laval in Quebec City.
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