Can we rely on people, who have sworn to try and change society’s values, to represent and defend society’s values?
Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief Ω
Two weeks ago in this column, I discussed a clash between one student’s religious freedom to request being excluded from interacting with female students at York University in Toronto and the rights of those women to not be discriminated against at their institutions by having those institutions comply with these types of requests.
At what point do we need to draw a line on “accommodation” for people within our post-secondary institutions? After all, I surmised, we wouldn’t say that you can’t attend classes if you can’t get up the stairs—we’d install an elevator or ramp, right?
This week, religious freedom and the right for all people to be treated equally clash again in the discussion of Trinity Western University (TWU) and their seemingly-soon-to-be law program.
You see, TWU is a private school, so it doesn’t have to play by the same rules as institutions like TRU (or any other publicly funded organization). It gets to openly discriminate against those who don’t share its values.
A few of those values, according to their own mission statement and published principles are as follows:
“Trinity Western University affirms with conviction the full truth and authority of the Bible. The Bible is sourced in God in a unique way that cannot be said of other literature. As a final, finished product the biblical scriptures are ‘without error’ and can be relied on with full confidence as an authoritative guide to Gods message of salvation and the manner of living appropriate for Christian people.”
They also put a heavy emphasis on “having a transformational impact on culture.”
They actually say, “Our greatest hope is that the TWU community influences people to forsake an unbelieving way of life. The kind of radical change we intend to effect is rooted in conversion that leads persons to embrace the Christian faith,” and that, “The New Testament makes clear that the followers of Jesus Christ are called to proclaim the gospel throughout the world.”
You are not allowed to attend TWU if you do not agree with these principles. They make you sign a contract and everything.
“In making this pledge, members enter into a contractual agreement,” says the covenant that prospective students must sign before being granted enrolment, before saying that, as a student, they shall not engage in “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman,” or for that matter, view pornography, lie, gossip or use “vulgar/obscene language.”
It goes on to make recommendations about what kind of things you should use your leisure time for, though a student’s choices in this regard (provided they don’t take place on university property and do not involve anything expressly prohibited such as being drunk) are their own.
So what are you saying Davies? Get to the point, dammit!
I’m asking if we want people who “carefully consider and sincerely embrace” this view of life and our society to be the lawyers of said society?
If a TWU graduate’s role as a lawyer ever comes into conflict with that of their beliefs, can we expect that they will set aside a belief structure that is an important aspect of their very identity and rely on them to provide service to a client who, for example, is charged with “public drunkenness” when that lawyer has committed to be against that action and actively attempt to change the world to reflect that value?
What about representing someone in a divorce proceeding who cheated on his or her spouse?
Or a defendant in an attack that occurred because they are homosexual?
The point is, we shouldn’t be wondering whether the lawyers who are charged in our society with defending the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, believe in that charter themselves or are setting out to change it because of their religious convictions.
So the long and short of my assessment is this: TWU should be free to teach Canadian law (or anything they want, really), but it shouldn’t be allowed to produce lawyers.
I want to know that our lawyers believe in the rule of law, not wondering if they’re trying to change it so it reflects the rule of God.