Front Page Mag 30 May 2014
An intense struggle is happening in the realm of professional licensing in Canada. The religious freedom of Christians and others is colliding on a grand scale with the “equality rights” of the LGBTQ identity group, and as the tide turns in favor of equality rights, we are starting to witness socially accepted ostracism of Christians by professional bodies.
On April 24th, the law society of Canada’s largest province voted against admitting among their ranks graduates of Trinity Western University, for the sole reason that the school’s community covenant, which students (and teachers) voluntarily sign upon admission or hiring, reserves sexual intimacy for heterosexual marriage. Nova Scotia followed suit, wording their rejection as approval on the condition that TWU change its community covenant or allow students to opt out. In British Columbia, where the school is located, the law society voted on April 11th to admit TWU graduates to the bar, but momentum is building for the law society to reverse that decision in a special meeting on June 10th.
The Supreme Court of Canada will likely soon have a chance to settle this matter, since Trinity Western University has just launched lawsuits against the law societies of Ontario and Nova Scotia, rightly alleging that they failed to stick to the law and follow an earlier Supreme Court decision that approved TWU’s covenant. That 2001 decision, Trinity Western University v. BC College of Teachers, is still good law, but many of our country’s top lawyers have become convinced that a shift in public opinion and the legalization of same-sex marriage have altered the climate enough to overturn the Court’s earlier opinion.
Such lawyers might well be right. With same-sex marriage legalized, the public debate is now strongly weighed against Christians who believe in traditional marriage, and they face rapidly mounting charges of unreasonable intolerance. During the April 11th debate by the B.C. law society (read the transcript online), some Benchers considered TWU’s covenant discriminatory because it requires gay students to abstain from intimacy “even within a legal marriage,” and because it prevents gay students “from being married by the State, a right that was hard fought and hard won.”
What Is Next for Canada?
Trinity Western University has started the process of bringing this whole matter back to the Supreme Court of Canada, but the outcome of that legal journey is far from certain. The climate has steadily shifting in favour of equality rights, and significant factions in the legal community now believe that religious freedom should be far more limited. Ontario’s law society is the largest and most influential in Canada, and its ostracism of TWU may well be heralding a new trend of exclusion of Christians from public and professional life.
If the Supreme Court decides against TWU, then surely other professional bodies will not stay far behind Ontario and Nova Scotia in excluding the graduates of TWU. Teachers already tried to do this in 2001, and emboldened by a new ruling they would surely try again. Nurses, dentists, accountants and other professionals could well follow suit.
Other Christian schools need to get ready for the domino effect. There are various independent religious schools in Canada, and many of them have covenants. Such schools should get ready for difficult decisions about putting their faith into practice. While they may be allowed to keep their covenants for the time being, they could be limiting the job opportunities of their graduates by doing so.
In the future, even foreign-trained students may not find welcome in Canada if their schools profess the sanctity of traditional marriage. Many international law students arrive in Canada each year, and currently the law societies do not look at the belief systems of the schools they came from but rather, they examine the academic training these students received. All this may change if our law societies proceed further in the direction of excluding students from schools like TWU. Even American students studying at private religious schools with covenants that profess the sanctity of traditional marriage might find their future career options curtailed in Canada.