Hate speech/discrimination in Canada
2013: Objections to proposed law school at Trinity
Western University, a Canadian Christian university
We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
The religious freedom of Christian conservatives in Canada has taken another hit. As is becoming increasingly common, it is not the religious freedom to hold unusual beliefs, to assemble with others, to proselyze, etc. that is under attack. It is the new, emerging version of religious freedom: to discriminate against, denigrate, and oppress minorities, with impunity. In this case, the victims are lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
Trinity Western University (TWU) describes themselves as "... a Christian University of the arts, sciences, and professions." 1 It is a private religious university and as such is exmempt under the BC human rights code. Thus elements of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- Canada's Constitution -- do not apply to it. The university is considering the addition of a law school -- the first Chrisitan law school in Canada.
On FEB-28, prominent Canadian lawyer, Clayton Ruby, wrote a letter with three other lawyers to the Federation of Law Socieities of Canada. It asked the federation to block the accreditation of the proposed Christian law school at
TWU because the latter discriminates against persons with a homosexual orientation. Ruby said:
"It is just wrong to have a law school approve discrimination in its own structure. That kind of discrimination which denies some people the right to equality is fundamentally inconsistend with law and democracy. ... This alone makes it incompetent to deliver legal education in the public interest." 2
All students at TWU must sign a "Community in Covenant" contract in which students must accept:
"... the Bible as the divinely inspired , authoritative guide for person and community life."
This clause would exclude all ethical non-Christians and most or all liberal/progressive Christians from attending the university. However, that is not the topic being debated at this time.
Another clause in the contract requires students to abstain from same-sex intimacy. Violations can result in discipline, expulsion, or the refusal of readmission. It requires that all students abstain:
"... from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."
In late January, deans from law schools across Canada wrote a similar letter. Bill Flanagan, dean of law at Queen's University at Kingston, ON and president of the Canadian Council of Law Deans said:
"In our view, this is a covenant that clearly contemplates discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." 2
In an earlier development during 2011, the British Columbia College of Teachers refused to accredit TWU because such an action would violate its own discrimination policy. A lawsuit resulted which was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada. Ruby said:
"The court said that what they're doing is discrimination against the human rights code of BC. ..."
However, because of a religious exemption in the province that allows faith groups to freely discriminate, the school was accredited.
Associate Professor Janet Epp Buckingham at TWU is one of the faculty who is developing the law school proposal. She has said that Christians at secular law schools are often "marginalized" and taught that people of faith are "irrational." 3 She interprets the Supreme Court decision in a different way. She said:
"I would argue what the court said was that TWU, as a Christian university, had the right to have Christian principles as a foundation for the university. ... We do not exclude gays and lesbians from our campus; we are not violating Canadian law." 2
At a talk show Jonathan Raymond, the president of TWU said that there are lesbian and gay students on campus, that the ideals in the covenant are an important part of TWU's identity, and that:
"a mountain is being made out [of] a molehill. ... There’s nowhere in any document that we say something hostile towards gays or lesbians."
He was asked what TWU's reaction would be towards a married same-sex couple were found to be students. He responded: "I don't know. Do you know why? It’s the beginning of a conversation. It’s never happened."
Webmaster's personal note: Bias alert
I agree that a law college should not be accredited at any university that discriminates on the basis of their students' sexual orientation. However, I feel that the larger problem with Trinity Western University is that it discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual students and Christian students who take a liberal or progressive view towards the inerrency and inspiration of the Bible, and students who view all the major religions of the world to contain truth, and students who are not Christian but might want to specialize in legal cases involving religious faith.
The rejection of LGBTs by TWU is certainly a serious problem. But the wholesale rejection of probably most of the Canadian population of university-aged students is by far the larger problem. I would suggest that the general accreditation of all parts of TWU should be carefully examined.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "2013 News," Trinity Western University," 2013, at: https://twu.ca/news/
- Jeff Green, "Proposed Christian law school should be denied accreditation, Clayton Ruby says," Toronto Star, 2013-MAR-01, at: http://www.thestar.com/
- Douglas Todd. "TWU dispute stirs debate over spirituality in higher education," The Vancouver Sun, 2013-FEB-16, at: http://blogs.vancouversun.com/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2013-MAR-02
Latest update: 2013-MAR-02
Author: B.A. Robinson