Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lawyers vote on future of Christian law school

The New Sexual McCarthyism and Trinity Western University
By Iain T. Benson
Robert Kuhn, TWU president and graduate of UBC law school.
Photo: Trinity Western University.
Every lawyer knows that how an issue is characterized will often determine how that argument will be received.

Under Senator McCarthy, the label “communist” was effective to blacken and slur one’s enemies, whether communist or not. Once branded as “communists”, the work was done. It is the same with those who brand disagreement with their theory of sexuality as “homophobic” and refuse to accept the legitimacy of any other viewpoint or allow it any space from which to argue.

Nuance and distinctions matter in moral debate unless you don’t want there to be a moral debate or don’t believe in diversity.

The Christians who wish to have a university community “rooted in the evangelical protestant tradition” and to have a law school working within that tradition have views about what is necessary to bind their community together. Others, who disagree with aspects of their Christian identity, would rather not risk any debate with them. They would prefer, like Senator McCarthy, to shut them down before they even open. This is an affront to equality, diversity and the principles of an open society.

The Community Covenant says, in essence, to non-married sexually active heterosexuals, bi-sexuals, homosexuals, polyamorists, to those who like pornography and those who would advocate extra- marital sex, drunkenness and divorce “you don’t have to agree with our religious moral views but if you come here please respect our religious beliefs and abide by our rules”. These provisions are not for everyone but then it is a private religious University, nobody is forced to go there. Shouldn’t freedom and equality demand diversity and respect for those with whom we disagree?

Not for the new sexual McCarthyites; they want their sexual views to be the only views and they don’t want to engage with disagreement much less accept it; they wish to stamp it out.

The logic of the attacks on religion is that differences should not exist or that if they do exist they should be marginalized and excluded from full participation alongside other communities. In particular they should not be allowed to have a law school whose graduates are treated with equality, respect and without discrimination because of their religious views. The new sexual McCarthyites seek to continue dominating the law.

Some cleverly mischaracterize the full context: consider this from a Dalhousie University law Professor who states that “On April 11, 2014, the Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) accredited a law degree program from a university with a formal policy of exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The words “sexual orientation” and “homosexuality” are not mentioned in the Covenant and any fair evaluation of the Covenant would point out that unmarried heterosexuals are as precluded from “sexual intimacy” and married heterosexuals precluded from adulterous relationships. What is at issue is a community moral viewpoint - - one that it is legal to hold in Canada even if such a view offends others who believe differently. Holding a different moral belief on sexual conduct should not be viewed as an attack on “sexual orientation” or on “dignity”.

The Covenant spells out that “[The University] welcomes all students who qualify for admission, recognizing that not all affirm the theological views that are vital to the University’s Christian identity.

Students sign this covenant with the commitment to abide by the expectations contained within the Community Covenant…” (emphasis added).

A free and democratic society worth the name protects the rights of all citizens and their differing communities to live out and teach what they believe. It allows a variety of views on sexual morality and, within limits, allows the teaching and manifestation “without hindrance or reprisal” of a diversity of beliefs. Bigoted attacks on diversity, religious freedom and religious equality and the freedom of associations including religious associations show the presence and the power of the new sexual McCarthyism.

Iain Benson is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant who publishes widely and consults internationally on constitutional law and human rights. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta.

©Iain T, Benson
(PhD, Extraordinary Prof of Law, University of the Free State, South Africa)
June 10th 2014

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