CCPA Policy Note

A lesbian walks into a Torts class…

June 12th, 2014 · · 8 Comments · Education, Human rights, Law & legal issues

A lesbian walks into a Torts class at Trinity Western University in Langley.  Her name is Mary.

Even before the discussion of Donoghue v. Stevenson begins, Mary is told to leave because she admits to having engaged in a “sexual expression of intimacy” with her same-sex partner at their home in Surrey.

“But we’re married,” she says.  It doesn’t matter.

“But we’re devout Evangelical Christians; active members of the congregation at the Renaissance Christian Church in East Vancouver,” she pleads.  It doesn’t matter.

“But we are deeply and fundamentally committed to the person and work of Jesus Christ,” she cries.  It doesn’t matter.

Mary is gay.  That’s what matters.  And that’s why I voted against approving TWU’s proposed law school on Tuesday.

Policy Note readers will likely know that TWU has proposed to open a new law school, which would require all students, faculty and staff to sign a “Community Covenant.”  The Covenant expressly discriminates against LGBTQ students and others.  Among other things, it requires members of the TWU community to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

In recent months, TWU has sought the accreditation of its law school by BC’s Law Society.  In April, the governors, or “Benchers,” of the Law Society decided to grant this approval.  On Tuesday, however, over 3,000 Law Society members, myself included, directed the Benchers to reverse their decision.

TWU’s president says that the disapproval of its law school by BC lawyers is an affront to TWU’s religious community and to many other people of faith; it sends a message “that they’re not welcome to engage in the public square of Canadian pluralistic society.”

But my vote sends no such message.  Nor does my vote represent a threat, capable of interfering with anyone’s religious beliefs or practices.

Quite the contrary.

My vote insists that TWU’s law school treat all people with charity and respect, in accordance with the second paragraph of the Community Covenant.

My vote demands that the TWU community strive to achieve respectful and purposeful unity aimed at the advancement of all, recognizing the diversity of viewpoints and life journeys – as per section 1 of the Covenant.

My vote, like section 3 of the Covenant, encourages the cultivation of virtues such as love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility, and justice.  My vote, like the Covenant, promotes communication that builds others up, according to their needs, for the benefit of all.  My vote, like the Covenant, maintains that all persons must be treated with respect and dignity.

I have no doubt that the legal arguments in defense of TWU’s discriminatory law school will ultimately fail.  So rather than undertaking this long, hurtful and fruitless legal and political journey, perhaps TWU’s leaders should consider simply living up to the ideals that they aspire to represent.

I expect that Mary would welcome this gesture of grace.

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    8 Comments so far ↓

    • zalm

      Snicker…. Ray had better check with some of the staff there. They’re not on message.

      In any case, the community covenant is about much more than the practices of devout married gay couples. It also interferes with a women’s choice, and that’s something I’m surprised has not found a more public airing. The way in which that conflict is handled is also something that could interfere with a sound legal education.

      That said, I see the possibility for Mary to abstain from sex while she is at Trinity studying law as wholesome, worthwhile, and inspired. Sex is not an involuntary contraction like a sneeze, or a necessary bodily function like urinating. It requires volitional commitment, and most couples engage often in sex when they probably shouldn’t or when it’s more detrimental to their relationship than wholesome. Abstinence in certain situations, voluntarily engaged in, can be stimulating to intellectual and spiritual health.

      But it’s a subject that deserves deeper consideration than you find in most blogs, and especially than you find in the popular media, which is not dedicated to discovering new ways or being, but rather bolstering old enmities.

    • Naomi

      Your vote is a strong step for equality and fairness. Thanks Jonathan, many of us stand behind you, in a place most people had no voice.

    • Pat Gibbs

      To say that TWU/Trinity Western University (to distinguish it from TWU/TWU-STT/Telecommunications Workers Union of Canada, usually referred to as TWU in English speaking areas) is merely a bible college is to let it off too lightly; it is and always has been, in my opinion, an institution dedicated to subverting public policy with the long-term goal (covert or subconscious is for you to decide) of creating a theocracy, forcing the narrow views of its minority constituency upon the broader society.

    • Heather

      As the main issue is that the TWU covenant forbids sex outside of marriage “between a man and a woman”, I believe the simple solution is for TWU is to change the covenant to ban all students from sex, whether in or out of marriage. That way, they do not deviate from their religious beliefs, and all persons are treated equally.

    • Sheila K.

      So, what happens to Bob? Bob is an evangelical Christian who attends TWU’s law school, which is established despite the various law societies that have pledged not to accept its graduates. Bob figures he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it because he’s not sure if or where he wants to practise law anyway. Bob is against gay marriage, so signing TWU’s covenant is no big deal for him. Bob passes his law degree with flying colours. One day, Bob is walking around the West End and sees the Pride Parade. New feelings stir. Bob comes out as gay, gets married to his boyfriend, and then, with his TWU law school degree in hand, tries to apply to the B.C. law society. (The law society is the only law society in B.C. It’s not like he can go apply to another law society.) Bob is denied entry because the law society didn’t like TWU’s community covenant. So Bob — gay, married, Christian Bob — doesn’t get to be a lawyer. Personally, I don’t think Bob is going to be too thrilled with the law society and its so-called “gesture of grace.” And that’s why I’m concerned about the law society’s vote. In trying to prevent discrimination against individuals, the law society may end up discriminating against individuals itself.

      • Jonathan Chapnick

        Thanks for your comment, Sheila. My hope is that both Bob, and Mary, will be able to attend law school at TWU, free from discrimination.

      • Hanne

        Nobody is stopping Bob or any other Christian from attending an accredited law school. Other universities may not have a “Community Covenant,” but again, nobody is stopping Bob from adhering to his Christian principles. If Bob insists on going to a law school that is not accredited, Bob only has himself to blame.

    • Ray Blessin

      “TWU” is a bible college. Always was. Always will be.