Like many religious institutions, Trinity Western University is finding out the hard way that secular views have trumped Christian values in modern-day Canada, both under the law and in the court of public opinion.
The Langley-based Christian university plans to open a law school in 2016 but the move is meeting some resistance across the country because of a covenant the school requires all of its students to sign. The covenant explicitly forbids homosexual relationships and sex outside of heterosexual marriage. The law society in Ontario said Thursday that it won't recognize Trinity Western law graduates, while the law society in Nova Scotia ruled Friday that it will permit the school's graduates to practice law but not to complete their articling there.
Trinity Western president Bob Kuhn, a lawyer himself, has wrapped himself in the flag of religious freedom, arguing that anyone treating future Trinity Western law graduates differently is blatant prejudice.
That's ironic, coming for a school president who has no problem being openly prejudiced against his homosexual students and singling out their sexual preference as wrong.
Funny how someone so willing to discriminate against one group is quick to protest when he's the one being discriminated against.
Two wrongs certainly don't make a right but the Law Society of Upper Canada was correct to refuse to allow future Trinity Western law grads from practicing law in Ontario. Under Canadian law, discrimination based on sexual preference is forbidden. Although there is room for religious beliefs on homosexuality (pastors are allowed to turn down requests for marriage from homosexual couples, for example), the freedom to hold those beliefs is neither unlimited nor unconditional.
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.