National Post editorial board: Canada can handle a Christian law school
This country is to have a new law school — one unlike any other existing accredited Canadian legal institution: On Wednesday, British Columbia’s Minister for Advanced Education, Amrik Virk, announced that his department would follow the advice of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and approve the creation of a law school by Trinity Western University (TWU), an overtly Christian institution that requires all students, staff and faculty to pledge that that they will abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
What is the appropriate role of a law school in directing its students’ consensual sexual activity? We would argue none. Which is why the decisions by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the B.C. Minister of Education to approve Trinity Western University’s (TWU) proposed law school are both legally incorrect and unjust.
In case you missed it, TWU requires all faculty, staff and students to sign a “Community Covenant” promising to “abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Critics of TWU contend that the creation of such a law school — and the government’s decision to accredit it — represents a violation of the Charter rights held by gay Canadians. In a manifesto circulated this week, for instance, a group of prominent jurists declares: “At the most basic level, it is unjust to have a law school that openly discriminates against a vulnerable segment of the Canadian public. Law schools are the prerequisite training ground for legal professionals and the only doorway for future judges, who must conduct themselves always in the public interest during the course of their work. It should concern every Canadian that the legal profession is sanctioning such exclusion.”
Some defenders of TWU’s policies will insist that the university is not discriminatory — because its covenant applies only to the actions of members of the TWU community, not their identity. Moreover, the covenant equally constrains heterosexual members of the TWU community who otherwise might choose to engage in promiscuous, pre-marital sex. Theoretically, a gay man or woman could attend TWU and graduate in good standing, so long as he or she abided by the rules of campus.
But that logic will seem strained, or even absurd, to most gay-rights supporters: The covenant is clearly intended to promote a traditional, biblical view of right and wrong sexual behaviour, according to which same-sex sexual intimacy is an abomination. A married gay couple that enrolled (or attempted to enroll) as students at TWU would not be in compliance with the school’s behaviour code. In this sense, TWU’s policies can hardly be said to be sexual-orientation-neutral.
But we part company with anti-TWU gay-rights activists when they claim that “It should concern every Canadian that the legal profession is sanctioning such exclusion.” The word “exclusion” would have real meaning in this context only if it were the case that a gay would-be law student truly were “excluded” by the profession. But the opposite is the case: Law schools across the country have plenty of gay students, many of whom are active in thriving gay-law-student groups and extra-curricular projects involving local gay communities.
No doubt, in the future, a gay applicant will try to gain admission to TWU’s law school, then launch a human-rights complaint, claiming “exclusion,” when his application is rejected. But that will be a mere activist stunt, and hardly indicative of persecution of a “vulnerable segment of the Canadian public.” Such an applicant would have his choice of every other law school in the country. And as noted above, few lawyers or legal scholars in this country could plausibly argue that, in 2013, law schools and law firms in this country are places where gays are made to feel “vulnerable.”
The Charter of Rights protects gay Canadians. But it also protects ‘freedom of conscience and religion,’ including the freedoms of the millions of religious Christians who live in this country.
There are limits to this logic, of course: Canada never would (or should) permit the creation of a law school that explicitly barred, say, black applicants. Or Asians. Or whites. But then again, one cannot compare mere racist bigotry to the proscription of gay sex contained in the Bible and the traditional Christian teachings that derive therefrom. The Charter of Rights protects gay Canadians. But it also protects “freedom of conscience and religion,” including the freedoms of the millions of religious Christians who live in this country.
There is no doubt that gay rights and traditional Christian (not to mention Jewish and Muslim) religious doctrines are at odds. And it is the job of courts to determine where the rights of one group begin, and the other end. Reasonable people can disagree where that line should be drawn. But one thing is certain: It should not be drawn in such as way that Christian religiosity be extinguished wholesale from Canadian institutions under the pretext of protecting gay rights. It is hardly an encroachment to allow a single Canadian law school to embrace the Christian values that the rest of the country’s academic legal establishment has rejected.
Read the original article here.