As reported in the Vancouver Sun, the Council of Canadian Law Deans oppose Trinity Western University’s (TWU) proposal for the country’s first religious law school because of the university’s long-standing requirement that faculty and students abstain from homosexual relationships.
According to Trinity Western community covenant, any sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman could lead to disciplinary measures that include expulsion.
Bill Flanagan, president of the Canadian Council of Law Deans, considers this a “matter of great concern” because “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlawful in Canada and fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools.”
According to Douglas Todd at the Vancouver Sun, Jonathan Raymond, President of TWU, responded to Flanagan’s concerns in a Nov. 29th letter in which Raymond said that forbidding homosexual relationships and sex outside marriage is “consistent with federal and provincial law.” Raymond noted the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2001 which stated that a religious school can be exempt from indictment for homosexual discrimination.
Attention regarding TWU’s position on homosexual relationships will no doubt increase scrutiny in other areas for this evangelical Christian university. Flanagan even questioned whether TWU fosters real intellectual freedom because the faculty are required to agree to particular Bible-based standards instead of open inquiry.
Janet Epp-Buckingham, associate professor at TWU and one of the leaders in developing the law school proposal, remains positive that TWU will eventually receive accreditation for a law school.
In a previous article for this site that detailed the motivation for establishing a Christian law school at TWU, Epp-Buckingham explained that faith is often and unhelpfully left out of the classroom. Students of faith are often advised by Christian lawyers to “keep your head down and your mouth shut” when entering secular law schools because if you do otherwise, as evidenced here, the powers that be will not be pleased.
How TWU and the Council of Canadian Law Deans move forward on this issue in the coming months will be a good indicator of the current role of religion in the Canadian public sphere. A conversation that is certainly worth following.