The Canadian Bill of Rights provides for diverse forms of quasi-constitutional rights to its citizens and agencies operating under the country’s geographical jurisdiction. One of the fundamental set of rights provided for under this legal provision is the freedom of religion/ belief. The constitution protects the freedom of an individual or an agency to believe and undertake religious practice and faith as one finds pleasing. It is vital to protect an entity to undue hardships when it comes to the freedom of religion. Such undue hardship may include the painting of a false picture of endorsement of what in essence would be secularism or against the Statement of Faith of such a person or entity. Therefore, the basis of Elaine Craig’s support in her article The Case for the Federation of Law Societies Rejecting Trinity Western University’s Proposed Law Degree Program (Craig, 2013) is not only legally unfounded but also biased. It is important to note that the jurisprudence of the freedom of religion/ belief protects the religious practices of the Trinity Western University (TWU). Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the freedom of religion (Boyd, 2010). Craig herself admits that TWU is a private Christian school and thus not a government run or a public utility agency (Craig, 2013). Based on this argument, the purpose of this paper is to present a contrary review to the perspectives explicated by Elaine Craig in her article mentioned above. It discusses why it would be prudent for the Federation of Law Societies not to reject the TWU’s proposed law degree program and in fact, should go ahead and accredit as a law degree-training center.
Craig’s arguments support the rejection of TWU’s proposal to the Federation of Law Societies on three pillars. Firstly, she advises the federation against approving a would-be law school perceived to be discriminatory. She believes that such an institution would not be able to offer competent legal training (Craig, 2013). Secondly, she delineates that the alleged discrimination policy fostered by TWU on lesbians and gays goes against the ethics and professionalism of the law profession espoused by the federation. Lastly, she presents a biased perspective that a court challenge by TWU against the federation, if it denies it accreditation because of its alleged discrimination policies, would not suffice in court (Craig, 2013). In other words, she outlines that based on the prevailing legal provisions a legal challenge by TWU seeking its accreditation by the federation will flop. Craig’s argument is based on an individual who approves and does not see anything religiously faulty with what another entity views as sinful/ secularism. However, what is unknown to Craig is that the federation does not have the authority to deny the college from offering the law degree program. Craig’s disapproval of TWU to offer the law program does not arise from issues of technical competency but rather her disapproval of their religious morals. The fundamental perspective that she appears to either ignore or intentionally reject is the fact that TWU has a right to their religious belief that is enshrined in the law. Furthermore, it is not a right for homosexual and lesbian individuals to work or acquire an education from TWU. It is at the discretion of the institution to determine who to admit or reject based on their internal systems and policies. Craig (2013) acknowledges that the University has ever won such a case before in Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers. This should set precedence that winning such is possible. Considering that their religious beliefs discredit sexual perversion, it is within their right to uphold such beliefs.
It is important to note that TWU presents itself to the public as a private faith-based institution guided by religious morals. This is a fact that is known by any individual who would wish to work or study in this institution. Therefore, by the time an individual is intending to make a commitment to become part of this college, that individual already know what he or she is signing up for and the expectations thereof. TWU already presents its mandatory statement of faith as well as its policies, and core values on its human resource documents and in the university calendar (Craig, 2013). This is to say that they have made all efforts to educate the public on what they stand for well in advance to avoid an element of contradiction or confusion. TWU bases its religious ideologies on the Christian faith, which abhors the practices of gays and lesbians and views them as perversion. To the Christin faith rejection of perversion is not an element of discrimination but an aspect of keeping in line with doctrinal beliefs and expectations. It is important to note that the Canadian jurisprudence on religion does not permit the forcing of religious beliefs or lack of it to anyone. In essence, forcing the university to endorse homosexuality and lesbianism by employing or admitting these individuals in their faculties as the qualifying ticket for receiving accreditation to roll out a law degree program from the Federation of Law Societies would not only amount to manipulation but it would be infringing on the rights of TWU concerning religious beliefs and practices.
There are individuals who do not approve of homosexuality and lesbianism purely on the merit of their religious beliefs and would still want to pursue the legal profession. Does it mean that they must renounce their religious philosophies or beliefs in order to become lawyers? Would that not be infringing on their rights on the freedom of religion and belief? Consequently, if they cannot study law just because they do exhibit a notable disapproval of practices that go against their faith would that not be infringing on their rights to education? Gay and lesbian individuals need to understand that the policy situation at TWU is not a malicious intention to discriminate but an element of religious faith. Since the university is not forcing its beliefs on anyone outside its sphere authority, it would be unfair for the federation to deny it the accreditation. Gay and lesbian individuals already have the option of seeking employment or education in other alternative institutions that do not subscribe to religious precepts. It is not a right to study or work at TWU. There are other options available.
In summary, the religious policies implemented at TWU that disapproves employment of personnel or admission of students from the gays and lesbians communities are not an element of outright discrimination or malicious intent but an aspect of religious belief. The law does not permit even the state to interfere with the rights of beliefs and religious practices of any individual or entity. Therefore, the federation should avoid the temptation of compelling the university to renounce its doctrinal beliefs as a qualifying factor for receiving accreditation to offer law degree programs. If the federation is a law-abiding agency, it would not wish to rule against section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom by denying TWU accreditation for the proposed law degree program based on presumed discrimination. TWU is not a public or government entity and its funding does not come from taxpayers’ money. Therefore, they have a right to choose whom to hire on its workforce or admit to its educational programs. Just as the law adjudicates, it is imperative to respect and protect the religious faith of TWU, which in essence does not approve of gays and lesbians.
- Boyd, N. (2010). The Constitution of Canada, the British North American Act, 1867, the Constitution Act, 1982, the future of federalism, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In Canadian law: An introduction (pp. 87-132). Ontario: Nelson Education Ltd.
- Craig, E. (2013). The case for the Federation of Law Societies rejecting Trinity Western University’s proposed law degree program. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 25(1), 148-170.