Law School Controversy Reignited
There has been a re-bubbling of controversy against Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. The heat of the discussion is centred on Trinity Western’s Community Covenant, specifically that it asks students to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” The underlying argument in opposition of the law school claims that the Covenant is discriminatory against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender students, and that for this reason TWU is not qualified to teach law. Supporters of the law school feel that this is a great misunderstanding regarding the Community Covenant. Those against the proposal of a law school being founded on Christian faith principles point to a statement issued in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Canada concerning TWU: “We conclude that a homosexual student would not be tempted to apply for admission and could only sign a so-called student contract at a considerable personal cost.” It is believed that because the Covenant upholds a Biblical view of marriage, it forces LGBT students to deny who they are, which is an act of discrimination, and makes TWU a hostile environment towards LGBT students.
Supporters of TWU’s law school argue that the Civil Marriage Act of 2005 allows anyone in Canada to maintain an exclusively man-woman view of marriage, as it states that, “Holding diverse views on marriage is not against public interest and that organizations that do should not be penalized for holding different opinions.” That is, it is a religious freedom supported by the human rights codes for TWU to disagree with the notion of homosexual marriage in their Covenant. This freedom to disagree is on the same level as the freedom to agree with same-sex marriage.
The opposition states that the practice of law and having a law school are not concepts which are close to the core of Christian faith, and so should not be considered an expression of religious freedom. Additionally, placement of power seems to be of particular concern. Opposition to the law school notes that people and institutions which are religious are generally not accepted sources of decision making in regards to the public activity of law-shaping in Canada.
Those in favour of the law school say that the great misunderstanding of the Community covenant is that it does not require someone signing to be Christian; rather, it upholds Christian principles. These standards are to be upheld on campus, but also include virtues of love, respect, grace and dignity towards those who do not conform to the Covenant.
TWU would be the first faith based law school in Canada. Their application for accreditation to teach law is before the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. Trinity Western University is confident that their application will be approved.