Canada’s Supreme Court struck down Trinity Western University’s proposed exclusive enrolment practices, including abstinence outside heterosexual marriage—and not a moment too soon.
While most higher education institutions in Canada started as Christian schools—including Queen’s—the nation is different today. A university that denies access to schooling based on mandatory religious values fails to do its job in offering accessible higher education.
The Court found that British Columbia and Ontario law societies can refuse to acknowledge Trinity Western’s proposed law school due to the university’s community covenant. The covenant binds students to a strict code of conduct and mandates, including the clause about heterosexual marriage—which the school calls “healthy sexuality”.
Christians in Canada have seldom suffered shortages of educational facilities or spaces to form communities. But for other social groups, like those who identify with LGBTQ+ communities, it’s a different story.
Specifically, the Court found the mandatory covenant’s description of marriage as “between one man and one woman” to be prejudiced against LGBTQ+ people. Trinity Western claims the Court’s supposedly intolerant decision diminishes diversity.
More and more, the language of tolerance is applied to intolerant behaviour. Trinity Western defends its exclusion of LGBTQ+ people by claiming protection of religious diversity in law.
But the approach to law school shouldn’t be diverse.
Canada is a secular and multicultural nation. There are certainly different ways to approach and apply law, but lawyers should respect the law for its standards and functions.
Lawyers are meant to be unbiased. They shouldn’t have personal filters affecting their commitment to facts and evidence.
If a student is taught law in an environment unaccepting of homosexual relationships and marriage—which has been legal in Canada since 2005—one can only hope they don’t pursue divorce law, which serves gay and straight couples alike.
A person should have the freedom to hold their own personal beliefs—but not when they impede the opportunities of other deserving individuals.
It’s strange that Trinity Western claims to need a space to project religious values, yet denies LGBTQ+ people the space for their own value systems at all.
At most schools, you can live your faith publicly. Trinity Western’s proposed law school, though, would see LGBTQ+ people forced to mask who they are.
Law schools are already exclusive in their admissions practices. Trinity Western’s rules would limit options for capable students based on a single aspect of their identities. This has no impact on their abilities to learn.
Religion and access to education shouldn’t be mixed. Tolerance and understanding of religion is essential, but its enforcement is unacceptable.
If students choose to make a personal pledge, that’s one thing. But we shouldn’t constrain students into subscribing to values that have no bearing on their education.
—Journal Editorial Board
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