A law school that doesn’t exist yet has already been blacklisted by the law societies of Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. Each had voted to bar its graduates from practicing law in their province.
It’s not because the proposed law program [Trinity Western University School of Law] fails to meet the rigorous academic requirements. In fact, the Federation of Canadian Law Societies has already approved the law school.
And it’s not because the university requires its students to adhere to a code of conduct that includes abstinence from pornography, alcohol, stealing and plagiarizing while they are enrolled there. In fact, all universities impose standards of behaviour on their students – standards that reflect the ethos and traditions of each institution of higher learning.
Their objections are rooted in the fact that the proposed law school is being established by a private Christian university whose code of conduct is based on a Christian ethos that reflects its high regard for biblical authority.
They argue, baselessly, that students who voluntarily choose to live by God’s standard of morality must be incapable of practicing law according to the profession’s own code of conduct because they have been corrupted by their religious point of view (where “religious” is equated with “archaic,” “flawed,” “aberrant” and “intolerant”).
They are demanding that the university reject its Christian stance as it applies to sexual immorality and that it stop requiring its students to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
And this is really the heart of the issue. They are offended because the school does not condone homosexual behaviour, and this, they argue, discriminates against members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community who may feel dissuaded from studying law there.
No matter that the university has a reputation for academic excellence; that the school is well within its rights as a faith-based institution to define marriage and sexual morality according to its strongly held religious beliefs and within its own community; that the university has never violated any human rights law; and that the school has historically accepted non-Christian and LGBT students and that they had freely chosen to abide by the school’s code of conduct.
No matter. Because the school’s traditional view of heterosexual marriage and sexual morality is a personal affront to those who hold the majority, relativistic view of such matters, resulting in unreasonable charges of intolerance and discrimination being leveled against it.
As such, potential graduates are already deemed unfit to practice law and will be denied admission into the law societies simply because they had chosen to exercise their personal beliefs while studying at a private Christian university.
But why stop at graduates of Christian law schools? Why not exclude any Christian from practicing law?
And why stop at Christian lawyers? By extension, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and any one else who has a traditional view of marriage and sexuality would be barred as well.
And why stop at the law profession? It’s conceivable that any self-regulating professional body (e.g. teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, etc.) could deny certification to otherwise qualified candidates, solely on the basis of their faith-based view of sexual relationships.
The sad reality is, most Canadians believe it’s more acceptable to ask Christians to act in opposition to their deeply held beliefs than it is to ask homosexuals to act in opposition to theirs (even when it’s within a private, faith-based setting). In a post-Christian, secular Canada, discrimination is no longer deemed to be discrimination when it is leveled at Christians.
I will show you my faith by my deeds. (James 2:18)
But the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) believes this is wrong. We must fight for our right to not just be Christians, but to be able to act according to our faith without fear of hindrance or reprisal. When the university took the case to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the EFC was there as an intervener to defend our constitutional right to freedom of religion*. When the court decided in favour of the school in January 2015, it was a victory for religious freedom.
The Hon. Justice J. Campbell wrote: “Learning in an environment with people who promise to comply with the code is a religious practice and an expression of religious faith . . . Requiring a person to give up that right in order to get his or her professional education recognized is an infringement of religious freedom.”
But the battle continues. The law society in Nova Scotia has appealed the court’s decision. The EFC will also be an intervener when the case is heard in Ontario this June. As well, we are applying for intervener status in BC, where the case will be heard later this year.
At no time in EFC’s 50-year history have we been so active in our various spheres of influence. As you may already know, we had intervened in three separate cases at the Supreme Court of Canada since January 2014. We don’t plan on slowing down.
Bruce Clemenger is president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. This comment is re-posted by permission; it was sent out in April as part of a financial appeal for the EFC’s work in the legal realm.
* For more commentary from the EFC on the Trinity Western case, go here.