"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Trinity Western University and Christian Law Schools

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Trinity Western University (TWU) has been breaking ground in many areas of Christian education.  A few years ago they went through a similar legal case with the teacher’s association – who, like the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of BC had refused to license/accredit the education faculty at TWU or their graduates.  This has all been done on the basis of the community convenant that TWU expects students to sign, a covenant which sets out a Christian code of behaviour including no sex before marriage.  Of interest is that TWU has no issue with students who declare themselves LGBTQ, as long as they are willing to hold to the covenant.

The profession’s refusal to license is one that seems frankly difficult to defend.  The argument is that because the graduates are coming from a place of belief, there is no way they could fulfill the requirements of the profession.  The joke intrinsic in that assertion is the implicit assumption that those without faith are somehow, by default, unbiased actors.  Everyone worships somewhere, and everyone brings that bias forward.

I had a similar experience once when called for jury duty.  My friend, Joe, whose father-in-law was a retired judge offered me the same advice his father-in-law had offered him.  Just show up for the jury call with your clerical collar on.  You will be immediately dismissed.  And he was.  The idea being that anyone who is ordained cannot make a decision based on the facts, as they will be swayed by the irrational.  It’s a little offensive, as my experience of reading theology is that it made me a more rigorous and logical thinker.

The convenant is a good overview of what it means to live in mutually accountable community within a Christian context.  That this is held up as proof that people cannot be objective and fair is a sign of how far our first world society has deviated from any understanding of mutual accountability.  It is also important that TWU (like our own The King’s University) is a private post-secondary institution, meaning not funded in the same way as the UofA or UBC.  Here’s the problematic bit (at least to the law societies):

In keeping with biblical and TWU ideals, community members voluntarily abstain from the following actions:

  • communication that is destructive to TWU community life and inter–personal relationships, including gossip, slander, vulgar/obscene language, and prejudice

  • harassment or any form of verbal or physical intimidation, including hazing

  • lying, cheating, or other forms of dishonesty including plagiarism

  • stealing, misusing or destroying property belonging to others

  • sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman

  • the use of materials that are degrading, dehumanizing, exploitive, hateful, or gratuitously violent, including, but not limited to pornography

  • drunkenness, under-age consumption of alcohol, the use or possession of illegal drugs, and the misuse or abuse of substances including prescribed drugs

  • the use or possession of alcohol on campus, or at any TWU sponsored event, and the use of tobacco on campus or at any TWU sponsored event.

In this case two appeals are being heard.  In the case of Upper Canada, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision that the law society was justified in refusing to accredit based on the discriminatory provisions of the covenant.  In the case of British Columbia, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that the refusal to license was discriminatory.

From a Supreme Court of Canada news service I follow the case summaries (and links to the appeal decisions):

Professions/Universities: First Christian Law School in Canada

Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of Upper Canada, 2016 ONCA 518 (37209)
There being no Christian law schools in Canada, and by contrast approximately 50-faith based law schools in the U.S., a university in B.C. decided to establish Canada’s first. The Law Society of Upper Canada (“LSUC”) denied accreditation to the law school of the Applicant Trinity Western University (“TWU”). TWU is a private post-secondary institution in B.C. that provides an education founded on evangelical Christian principles. TWU’s approach to community development was expressed in a Community Covenant, a code of conduct that encouraged or discouraged certain behaviour based on evangelical Christian principles of Biblical teaching and morality. The covenant prohibited sexual intimacy that violated the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman. Unmarried individuals were expected to live chaste, celibate lives. TWU fully accepted admission of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBTQ) students, and the covenant specifically prohibited any forms of discrimination or prejudice. However, TWU did prohibit admission to its law school if a student refused to sign the covenant. On judicial review, the court held the LSUC was entitled, in the exercise of its statutory mandate to act in the public interest, to refuse to accredit TWU’s law school based on the discriminatory nature of the community covenant. The reviewing court found although the decision breached the freedom of religion rights of the Applicants, TWU and its representative student (“TWU et al.”), the LSUC had engaged in a reasonable and proportionate balancing of the Charter protections at issue. Therefore, the reviewing court concluded the LSUC’s refusal decision was reasonable. The  C.A. dismissed TWU et al.’s subsequent appeal. “The application for leave to appeal…is granted with costs in the cause. The appeal will be heard with Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University, et al. (37318). The appellants are required to serve and file a Notice of Constitutional Question in Form 33B in accordance with subrules 33(2) and (3) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Professions/Universities: First Christian Law School in Canada

Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia, 2016 BCCA 423 (37318)
Similar summary to that immediately above, except that here the Law Society’s decision (to deny accreditation) was overturned. “The application for leave to appeal…is granted with costs in the cause. The appeal will be heard with Trinity Western University, et al. v. Law Society of Upper Canada (37209). The appellant is required to serve and file a Notice of Constitutional Question in Form 33B in accordance with subrules 33(2) and (3) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada.”

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Written by sameo416

February 23, 2017 at 9:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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