Women who have been sexually assaulted on university campuses are not taken seriously by the university. Dalhousie Dental students post disturbing and sexually explicit comments about female students on Facebook. Rape chants highlight Frosh Week at some Canadian universities.
One would think with headlines like that a university at which students promise to abstain from premarital sex (as well as harassment, gossip, vulgar language, drunkenness, use of illegal drugs, cheating and stealing) would be welcome news. Not only does “‘no’ mean ‘no’” but the question is never even asked! And yet many have given Trinity Western University in Langley, BC a failing grade for that very reason. The ‘community covenant’ that students are asked to sign states that they will voluntarily ‘abstain from sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman’. It’s this part of the covenant ‘between a man and a woman’, that some claim, discriminates against married gay persons who would want to study law there. Obviously it does not discriminate against unmarried gay or lesbian persons because the same rule of abstinence applies to both unmarried heterosexual and homosexual persons.
It should be pointed out that as lawyers, graduates from the proposed law school at TWU would have to uphold the law of Canada which allows for same-sex marriage. TWU acknowledges that Canadian Human Rights Laws and the Charter and Section 15 of the Charter protect against and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and that “the courses that will be offered at the TWU School of Law will ensure that students understand the full scope of these protections in the public and private spheres of Canadian life.” (see the website for Trinity Western University).
In the preamble and section 3.1 of the Civil Marriage Act of Canada there is also protection against discrimination of those whose religious beliefs do not allow for their participation to perform marriages which are not in accordance with those same religious beliefs:
WHEREAS nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs;
WHEREAS it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage;
3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.
The BC Civil Liberties Association, which has often defended gay rights in British Columbia, wrote to the Law Society of BC in support of the TWU
Law School in March, 2013 as follows:
TWU is a private religious university. TWU requires its students, as a
condition of enrolment, to sign a Community Covenant under which
they agree to “voluntarily abstain” from “sexual intimacy that violates
the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” While it is
the implications that this aspect of the Community Covenant have for
LGBTQ students that that have received the most attention in this
current controversy, it is worth noting that that is only one part of a
comprehensive faith-based code of conduct that members of the TWU
community agree to abide by.
Were such conditions imposed on students attending a public faculty of
law they would rightly be seen as unlawful discrimination contrary to s.
8 of the Human Rights Code of BC, as well a breach of students’ rights
to equality under s. 15 of the Charter. But it is crucial to remember that
TWU is not a public university and these conditions are not imposed on
TWU students – they are voluntarily accepted by those students who
choose to attend TWU. .... People who are not members of a particular
religion (and even those who are) may not approve of or be comfortable
with the beliefs of that faith. However, BCCLA’s position – in accordance
with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Trinity Western University - is that
the repugnance of a certain set of beliefs even to a majority of Canadians
cannot be the basis to deny a public good, such as entry to a profession,
to members of that faith.
In this case, the public good is accreditation for the purpose of
admission to the bar by students graduating from TWU’s proposed law
school. The denial of that public good to graduates of TWU’s law
school would infringe the freedom of religion, of association and of
expression of the members of the TWU community. We are unaware of
any sufficient rationale being offered that would justify that infringement.
Permitting graduates of TWU to enter the legal profession does not send the message
from the state to LGBTQ Canadians that they are less worthy of respect than others nor
does it deny them any rights or freedoms to which they would otherwise be entitled.
All it does is respect the freedom of those who wish to govern their own conduct in
accordance with the religious tenets encompassed within the Community Covenant.
(e-mail from the BC Civil Liberties to The Law Society of British Columbia. March 3, 2014. The entire e-mail can be viewed on
http://www.lawsociety.bc.ca/page.cfm?cid=3891&t=Bencher- meeting-consideration-of-TWU,-April-11,-2014 under Public Submissions).
The Benchers of BC’s Law Society approved TWU’s Law School in the summer of 2014. However a group of lawyers in British Columbia asked for a membership vote on the matter rather than accepting the ruling of their governing body. In the fall of 2014 a majority of members voted against the approval of accepting graduates of TWU Law School as members of the Society. The Benchers of B.C.’s law society then reversed their previous approval of TWU Law School. Since then in December, 2014, BC Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virka also revoked the consent he had previously given for Trinity Western University to offer a law degree program.
TWU President Bob Kuhn said that he was disappointed with the decisions, “As a private Christian
University, Trinity Western has demonstrated its place in Canada’s academic community, delivering some of Canada’s highest ranked professional programs. We believe in diversity and the rights of all Canadians to their beliefs and values.”
It all boils down to this: if you don’t agree with the rules of a school or university then don’t go there. There are other law schools in Canada and in British Columbia. Surely students would be happier studying where they agree with the rules and are with those who share their beliefs. Trinity Western says it is based on Christian principles and the Bible. If this is not your thing, why would you want to study there?
Some groups, yes, even well-known, banks and corporations, that oppose TWU’s Law School, say it is because they support ‘diversity’ in Canada. Apparently to them ‘diversity’ only means the diversity which they approve. Is that true diversity?
Ezra Levant, a journalist with the now defunct Sun News, reported on the vote against TWU's Law School in 2014, Listen to it at www.ezralevant.com/the-real-bigots
To learn more about Trinity Western University in Langley, BC go to their website at www.twu.ca