Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The slavery of academic freedom

I heard a story on the radio today that a thousand law students across Canada have signed a petition protesting Trinity Western University's (TWU) application to start a Christian Law School on their campus in Langley, BC.  TWU's application is also being opposed by the Canadian Council of Law Deans, the Vancouver Sun reports here.  In the interview I heard today with a law student who had signed the petition against TWU's application, the reason given for the opposition was that TWU's community covenant is discriminatory toward homosexuals.  In a list that includes requiring all students to abstain from certain behaviors including cheating, lying, stealing, getting drunk and harassing or abusing others, the offending clause is this: 
"In keeping with biblical and TWU ideals, community members voluntarily abstain from the following actions: 
 -  sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman"
As I said, this statement in one of a list and there is much more to the community covenant than the "don't" rules. The whole student community covenant can be found here.  Note all the Scripture footnotes. 

The university self identifies as Christian.  Their stated purpose, vision and goals are to teach all they do from a biblical Christian perspective.

"The University’s mission, core values, curriculum and community life are formed by a firm commitment to the person and work of Jesus Christ as declared in the Bible. This identity and allegiance shapes an educational community in which members pursue truth and excellence with grace and diligence, treat people and ideas with charity and respect,think critically and constructively about complex issues, and willingly respond to the world’s most profound needs and greatest opportunities"
TWU was challenged once before in court on the issue of their community covenant when they wanted to start a teaching school to train educators.  In that instance, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld TWU's right to train teachers over against the attempts of the BC College of Teachers, who attempted to oppose it on roughly the same grounds as the current opposition to the proposed law school.  The details of that case may be found here

Those opposed to TWU starting a Christian law school say they are against it because TWU is intolerant of homosexuals.  (Never mind that the radio interviewer played a statement from a homosexual student at TWU who says that throughout his time there, he has only ever been treated with respect, dignity and kindness.) Tied closely with the charges of intolerance of homosexuals, the law students who signed the petition also believe that there cannot be a true climate of complete academic freedom at TWU as a result of their distinctive Christian perspective.  When the interviewer asked if the signatories were perhaps discriminating on the basis of religious freedom, the oblivious future lawyer didn't seem to understand the double standard he was holding forth.  No, we aren't the intolerant ones, they are.  Powerful argumentation from a future purveyor of justice and equality before the law.  TWU is guilty of not upholding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects people's rights no matter what their sexual orientation, the student stated.  No mention of the fact that it also upholds the right to religious belief and freedom of conscience or that Section 29 confirms the rights of religious schools.   

Hmmmmm.....TWU can't have a climate of complete academic freedom, as compared with the existing secular law schools who are opposing them, in which there is lots of academic freedom and tolerance for all views......that is, unless you happen to want to hold to biblical principles and to adhere to a traditional Christian view of human sexuality, in which case not only are you not tolerated in their institutions but you are forbidden to start one of your own. 

Tolerance:  the new bigotry.  

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