More problems for proposed Trinity Western University law school

The Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario) and Nova Scotia Barristers Society have voted on whether future graduates of the BC evangelical university which recently received permission from BC to form a law school will be able to practice law in their provinces. The Globe & Mail:

Nova Scotia’s law society has voted to approve accreditation of Trinity Western University law school, but only if it drops the controversial policy prohibiting same-sex intimacy that some say is discriminatory.

Ten members of the council of Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society voted to conditionally accredit, while nine voted against allowing graduates from the faith-based Trinity Western University to practise in the province.

The decision follows that by Ontario’s law society to refuse to accredit the new law school.

The Law Society of New Brunswick will be voting in June.

This is the reaction of the Trinity Western University President:

“We are very disappointed,” said Trinity Western University president Bob Kuhn in a statement.

“These decisions impact all Canadians and people of faith everywhere. They send the chilling message that you cannot hold religious values and also participate fully in public society.”

…But Kuhn told the panel that treating the university’s alumni different from graduates of other schools would be prejudicial.

Kuhn, a long-time lawyer, said he was offended by any suggestion that religious beliefs would prevent students from acting professionally and ethically in their duties as lawyers.

TWU does not receive public funding. The law school, scheduled to open in 2016 would take about 60 students. The school  got into a royal battle in the 1990′s with the BC College of Teachers.

In the late 1990s, the British Columbia College of Teachers blocked Trinity Western from granting teaching degrees in light of its policies related to homosexuality. At the time, students were required to sign an agreement not to engage in activities that were “biblically condemned,” including “homosexual behaviour.”

The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which overturned the college’s decision.

As well TWU made news a few years ago because of a charitable tax scheme involving TWU parents and students.

There is no such thing as a Christian lawyer, which is what I hear TWU attempting to promote. There are lawyers who are Christians. In fact there are many in Canada, all of who went to law schools which did not require signed covenants  promoting institutionalized discrimination. None of those lawyers are any less Christian, are they?

The five page TWU covenant requires students  refrain from, “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” and the covenant promotes ‘healthy sexuality’, which, “according to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman, and within that marriage bond it is God’s intention that it be enjoyed as a means for marital intimacy and procreation.” 

Potential law students in a same-sex marriage need not apply.
While opposition to same sex marriage is a default response in some conservative evangelical corners, it is not the only response of evangelicals.
No doubt there are gay Christians who would be openly willing to abide by an abstention rule, having grown up with that belief.
I wonder how many GLBT students at a school like TWU remain in the closet out of fear. I have as much of a problem with a culture of shame and fear around sexual orientation as I do with blantant discrimination against same sex married couples. And I have little patience with Kuhn’s belief that people of faith are under any kind of chill or attack. Seems to me his comment is a direct insult to every lawyer who is a Christian practicing in Canada.  The chill I feel as a believer is from fellow evangelicals demanding signed covenants and openly demanding the right to discriminate against a minority.

A petition by a BC lawyer has garnered double the number of signatures required to force a general meeting of the BC Law Society within 60 days to review the decision to accredit a law school at TWU.

Trinity Western University is signalling that they will pursue their goals aggressively through the legal system.

Neil Godbout at The Prince George Citizen speaks more eloquently and sufficiently than I have. What would Jesus do? 

All law students are taught that the law must be paramount over personal beliefs or religious values for democracy to exist and justice to be served.

Kuhn is free to demand his students sign the behaviour covenant but law societies across Canada are free to oppose that demand and reject the school’s graduates, on the grounds that they’ve been taught that their religious values are greater than the law and that they condone prejudiced behaviour against homosexuals.

There is a simple resolution to this problem. Trinity Western needs to look no further than the words of Jesus Christ to know how it should proceed.

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” Jesus told his followers in the book of Matthew, chapter 22, verse 21. It was Christ’s advice for those wanting guidance on what to do when conflict arises between the laws of humanity and God’s commands. It seems clear that Jesus said that in matters of the law, the law takes precedence, so long as it doesn’t interfere with worship. Christians can remain true to both human law and to God’s word without sinning or condoning sinful behaviour.

There is no need for Trinity Western to have its students sign the behavior covenant. Devout Christians wanting a faith-based education could rightly refuse to sign the covenant on the grounds that it is God’s judgment, not the school’s, that is paramount. A written declaration to the school about following Christian behaviour holds no water when the only judge that matters is Christ himself.

Kuhn’s faith in God needs to be matched by some faith in his students. By enrolling in Trinity Western, his students have put their faith (and their time and money) in receiving a post-secondary education at an institution that values the Christian beliefs they already hold more than what is available at other colleges and universities. Kuhn and Trinity Western’s leadership should return the faith placed in them by their students by trusting them to continue to embrace the words and the example set by the Saviour.

Doing so would allow the university and its students to follow both Canadian law and God’s words. It would also allow law societies across Canada to recognize the school’s graduates as competent lawyers who understand the separation of church and state.

Update: Trinity Western U is suing Ontario and Nova Scotia law societies and will be part of the lawsuit in BC which is challenging the schools right to have a law school.

Update: BC lawyers vote against Trinity Western Law School.

Update: Law Society of British Columbia referendum vote:

The law society said 8,039 of 13,530 eligible voters cast their ballots, with 5,951 voting against accrediting the university and 2,088 voting in favour.

About Bene Diction

Have courage for the great sorrows, And patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
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16 Responses to More problems for proposed Trinity Western University law school

  1. Bene Diction says:

    Here is a good explanation of how the BC Law Society review will proceed.

  2. fjc says:

    I agree with Neil Godbout. Asking students to sign a five page covenant is more than a little silly. Reminds me of my wife telling me that when she was 15 or so those in her age bracket were asked by the Pastor to sign some sort of Pledge that they would never drink alcoholic beverages. Apparently even cooking with them was a big no no. She was actually given a certificate.

  3. AtheistAtBirth says:

    The university approaches this issue with a sort of Christian privilege attitude, as if it holds the line on morality in society and expects it’s reprehensible policies to be administered, not only in the life of the educational facility, but extending out into society as a whole.

    The policy reminds me of a disparaging attempt by yet another faith based institution fearful that it is losing power and control (One and possibly the same) over it’s adherents. By walking a little further down the road of unreasonable behavior, it is assumed you can now force people to bend to your way of thinking, when a gradual erosion of secular stop guards no longer seem sufficient to stem the flow of worldly behavior.

    God forbid that people should actually engage in unChristlike behavior and have the god of the ages curse the college for it’s wanton ways. After all, from their point of view – someone HAS to take a stand!

    flc points out wisely that “sin” can typically be circumvented.

  4. BD says:

    By the time a student gets to law school, they already have school experience, an undergrad degree and are adults.
    While everyone’s rate of maturity is different, the administrative lack of faith and trust in these potential adult students is not reassuring.

  5. fjc says:

    As my old mother would say about those types of convenants…..’it’s all show and no go’.

  6. Mike Somerville says:

    Does signing a code of conduct invalidate an education? If that is the case, BC should revoke the charter of TWU. If not, then let the law graduates practice law.

  7. John Payzant says:

    Thanks Bene read the article from my Roman Catholic friend

    The 1960s changed some things

    now is now

    time will tell

    St Augustine wrote about feelings in His Confessions

  8. Bene Diction says:

    I don’t see how a code of conduct affects academics – TWU is accredited. The future law grads will practice law – but not in eastern Canada.

  9. Hopesome says:

    In the name of the LAW is not the convenent a stand for Moral Judgement!

    showing a hidden deficit of not being able to handle sexual affinity and activity in all of its manifestations!


    So where do we go from here is the real question

  10. Hopesome says:

    Where do we go from here !:


    We provide whatever is required to ‘overcome’ the lack of ………

    We bring in the hate and
    the hope of it;
    some just LOVE to hate

    The problem is that hate is there in us all at some point or another whether we allow it to surface or not …………….. There are many who speak out hate whilst being covered in love – there are many who are covered in love that would just love to speak out hate ………

    which one are you !!

    either way get rid of hate ………………… because its word is no longer hidden in love.

    Male authority have some respect for those either without any respect or are full of their own ………

    assumption is a dangerous thing right!

  11. Peter McKenzie says:

    While I don’t necessarily agree with the signing of a document promising to avoid certain behaviour, I think it should be pointed out that any school that has determined to be a theology based institution, faces a significant dilemma. I remember a Christian school wanting me to say that I wouldn’t drink or smoke or go to movies etc., if I wanted to teach at that school. That was 30 years ago and I doubt that things have changed since then. The challenge that such schools such as TWU face, however, is to try to figure out how to stay true to their beliefs – and ward off the erosion of them. One does not have to go far to find examples of schools (such as Harvard and Yale) that had constitutions based on the Bible – and yet now teach evolution. Knowing that the church and the world are never going to completely co-exist, I wonder what TWU can do to stay true to their worldview – and yet not discriminate against people who want to enrol as people who are radically opposed to that same worldview? I am guessing that no one here is suggesting that TWU back away from their interpretation of the Bible’s message of denouncing sexual sin. If the issue becomes a fight against the authority of the Bible – I am siding with TWU and hope that they can tweak their presentation while not compromising their belief. If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?

  12. fjc says:

    I have no problem with TCU having a law faculty…just as long as their curriculum meets accepted standards.

    But I do not subscribe to the view that those lawyers who voted against it are anti-Christian. Though heaven knows, if anyone knows more about discrimination it has to be Christians. They have practiced it and fine tuned it for centuries.

    I believe that lawyers simply think differently than the average citizen. They are schooled in the law, they have a great respect for it, and for our constitution. It is unfair to accuse all of those lawyers who are not in favour of this school anti Christian.

  13. Hopesome says:

    Most religious sects have laws – do this and don’t do that ………….. so you have two laws battling it out in this instance

    ( In -stance!)

    The law of the land and religious law ………. both determined to win …………. yet one more war in the making !!

    Peace gets lost as battle begins ……….. and most of us end up as pawns in the game of win or lose.

  14. fjc says:

    Will TWU law students be permitted to have televisions? How about access to the internet? Will they be required to have a check off system for church attendance-and be told which churches are approved? Does Trinity have lists of banned books, banned music?

    These are adults, future leaders.

    I simply cannot see any twenty-two year old free thinker or future community leader EVER signing off on a document as silly as the current covenant.

    It is insulting and it is demeaning.

    So now the students are covered off. Who is monitoring the faculty and administration?

  15. Ed Doerksen says:

    I’ve read most of the comments and enjoyed the post. what everyone argues about is relevant to the discussion. What I know that many may not know is there have been, there are, and there will be a number of openly gay students at TWU. There was one student who was elected as Student Association president, another student who was their pride and joy of the drama department and both were openly gay. There was a club for gay students at one time and the university nurses office has a red banner draped over a cross indicating HIV/AIDS awareness.

    To say that there are no gay students at TWU is not true. To say that they are in the closest is not always true either. What the community standards is about is no sex for anyone outside the state of marriage. No consumption of alcohol or smoking, no drugs etc. The standards are there for a few reasons. 1. parents are relieved to send their boys and girls (first years) to a “safe environment”. 2. TWU expects their students to pass not fail the first year. 3. The standards create an atmosphere of community without the problems of alcohol and drugs etc.

    I attended and graduated from TWU, as an adult student. The reality is that what goes on off campus is very different than what goes on, on campus. What goes on before classes start in the fall and when students leave the campus for holidays. I even know of staff members who once off campus have a few pints in a local tavern.

    What is not realized is that the community standards is also a tool by which undesirable students and staff can be dismissed or terminated from the university. It is also a tool by which trouble makers can be removed from the university. Openly gay students have never to my knowledge been dismissed for being gay. Nor have staff members been dismissed for have a pint.

    So to say that TWU doesn’t accept gay students is wrong. What one also needs to understand is that each student is a dollar sign to any institution that is not publicly funded. There are many students there who have worked their butts off to attend TWU while others attend due to gifts from their churches, or they are rich enough to attend. Students can obtain student loans etc. But the rule of thumb is that the more money one has to offer the university, the easier it is to attend there and even thwart the minor rules – as I have also seen done.


  16. John Payzant says:

    If you pay your own way are liked and well behaved then no problem sounds like that to me.

    Most people don’t not only mind but don’t want to be upset but be calm about GLBT.

    7-Day Adventist Schools have rules too as well as joining a Monastery.

    There’s now Political Correctness and about -being offended- & -finding offensive- certain things by certain people.

    On the West Side of Vancouver in Kerrisdale where I grew up was a good neighbourhood but never heard of such rules mentioned here as I’m reading now; furthermore, I also never heard of disagreement with rules too as I’m also reading here.

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