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Law students oppose TWU law school bid

|Written By Heather Gardiner

Law students across the country are speaking out against Trinity Western University’s application for a law school.

Law students say the private Christian university’s admission policies are clearly discriminatory.

Students are not happy with the private Christian university’s covenant, which requires students to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

“It’s very clear in this policy that LGBTQ individuals are not welcome at Trinity Western University,” says Douglas Judson, a second-year JD/MBA student and co-chairman of the Osgoode OUTlaws.

“The policy directly targets LGBTQ individuals and we think that the type of environment that creates for legal study is not necessarily suitable for inspiring young lawyers,” he tells Legal Feeds.

Student groups from various law schools — including Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Victoria, University of Saskatchewan, Dalhousie University, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Ottawa, and Université du Québec à Montréal — wrote letters to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, asking the federation to consider their concerns when deciding TWU’s fate.

Judson says law schools should propagate the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian legal values.

“There has to be an added duty on a law school to reflect the spirit of the law and give the law itself a fair hearing in the classroom. We don’t see how [TWU] could do that when their policies inherently discriminate at risk of expulsion,” he says.

“How do you have open discussions about contemporary issues? How does a student become fluent in dealing with clients from various walks of life with various personal legal problems?”

Students aren’t the only ones speaking out against TWU’s application.

The Canadian Bar Association also weighed in on the issue earlier this week in a letter to the FLSC. "In our view, the federation and the committee charged with approving new Canadian law degree programs must strike a balance between freedom of religion and equality, and give full consideration to its public interest mandate and to the values embodied in Canadian human rights laws," wrote CBA president Robert Brun.

"Based on the delegations of power from its constituent law societies, the federation has a duty to go beyond a strict determination of a proposed law school’s compliance with the national standards. It must assess whether the institution and its program complies with Canadian law, including the protections afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the human rights legislation in B.C., and in every province and territory where a proposed law degree may be recognized by the law societies for admission to bar."

At the bi-annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Law Deans on Nov. 9, there was also quite a buzz about this very issue. The CCLD expressed its concerns in a letter to the FLSC shortly after.

“As law schools we’re committed to non-discrimination and equal treatment of our students, and we certainly would not purport to discipline students who engage in extra-marital activities or same-sex activities,” Bill Flanagan, Queen’s University law dean and CCLD president, told 4Students.

In response, the FLSC wrote: “The national requirement, approved by law societies, does not contemplate or authorize an inquiry into the admission philosophy of a law school program, either existing or new, or an investigation into whether the admission policies of an educational institution are consistent with federal or provincial law.”

Trinity Western was previously challenged on this issue when it tried to establish its teachers’ college. The British Columbia College of Teachers refused to accredit the program because the school’s standards “embodied discrimination against homosexuals.” That dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled the BCCT was required to approve the program.

  • O.W. Holmes
    Cowboy Shoes: That was a whole lot of words to say nothing. Your entire lime of argument - if it can be characterized as such - is premised on nonsense. It is exactly this type of poppycock - i.e., importing your imaginary wish fairy into conversations that must be based solely on evidence, reason and rationalthought - that perfectly illustrates why law should not be studied through the lens of religious delusions.

    Anothethe tr thing: Sooner or later you people are going to have to get over your silly fantasy that morality is governed solely by god. Aside from the fact that god is totally unnecessary to the formulation of any coherent moral code, it seems to me that religious dogma simply pretends to be moral, when the reality is that in many cases it is profoundly immoral. it is only those whp have drank the Kool Aid that are fooled into thinking that adhering to the cave man scribblings they so worship has anything to do with right and wrong.
  • Cowboy Shoes
    Ah, typical secular disdain for philosophy---where are "right" and "wrong"? How do you measure them? Certainly we cannot use surveys, because then the Evil Public might come to the "wrong" conclusions---they might be homophobic, racist, Xist, whatever things are streng verboten by the all-wise secular priesthood.

    It is not premised on nonsense; it is premised on the well-accepted view of where "rights and virtues" exist: in the soul. And I will gladly accept that there are no souls, fine. But then there are no rights and virtues because there is nothing to which they can be appurtenant. Rights and virtues are very clearly fictitious, just as fictitious as Gods or demons. Little stories used by weak people to make like bearable because the truth confounds them, right?
  • RE: Law students oppose TWU law school bid

    Richard
    The students and deans who are attempting to censure TWU are an insult to the law and the Charter. We are schooled in advocacy, not in personal beliefs and that is the only test. There is no reason to conclude that TWU cannot graduate competent advocates regardless of their personal beliefs. Their are plenty of other laws schools for students who don't like this one. That law students and deans should become the advocates of intolerance is profoundly disturbing. For shame!
  • O.W. Holmes
    Sarah: You should pay more attention in class, if you think your response provides a satisfactory answer to charges that TWU's policies are discriminatory. In even asking students to refrain from same sex relationships, TWU has implemented a policy which will obviously affect gay students differently than heterosexual ones.

    Primitive belief systems - no matter how many people adhere to them - can never be allowed to justify discrimination and bigotry.

    If Jesus himself told you that same sex relationships are evil, then Jesus was just plain wrong.

    And to anyone who would ever consider going to TWU: Good luck getting a job.
  • Cowboy Shoes
    Spare me, Holmes. The whole premise to law is discrimination and bigotry---the bigotry of the "just" against the "unjust." And metaphysically speaking, "just" and "unjust", "right" and "wrong" are faith-based entities---they have no corporeal being and are not amenable to empirical analysis, except in a descriptive statistical sense---but surely you would not accept that homophobia is "just" if 50%+1 are homophobic, right? This is the fallacy of contemporary left-wing politics: you kids want the "gravy" of fundamentally theological entities (right and wrong) without any of the "grief" of maintaining coherent theological narratives---you rely on little more than coercion and force, often enacted against children, in order to keep them on the "right path." Just like the Church, except I don't think anyone ever had to go to Church five days a week, did they? Think about that.
  • Cowboly Shoes
    "Nostre Ley est fonde sur le Ley de Dieu" (12 H. 8 fol. 2)

    People who do not acknowledge this are simply incapable of practicing law---what they practice is "I Can't Believe It's Not Law." Indeed, all lawyers should be required to receive communion before being called. Law is fundamentally theological, that is, invisible and intangible---people who are irreligious do not really believe in law; they believe in war. What they call "law" is nothing more than a species of psychological warfare.
  • RE: Law students oppose TWU law school bid

    Sarah
    I agree with the comments above.

    Firstly, I am bothered how some of these dissenters build their argument on a number of assumptions. The assumption that LGBTQ individuals are not welcome at TWU, or are targeted, is simply wrong. LGBTQ students do attend TWU, and are perfectly welcome and valid members of the community.
    The assumption that open classroom discussion is in some way inhibited by the Community Covenant is also wrong. The Covenant does not ask anyone to prescribe to a religion, or a sexual orientation. It merely asks students to ACT (not believe) in accordance with Christian principles. That doesn't mean you can't talk about or advocate for other positions. In fact these discussions are encouraged. TWU states on their website that, "Truth does not fear honest investigation."

    Secondly, if law schools should propagate Charter values, then every law school in Canada should be defending TWU's Charter right to freedom of religion.
  • O.W. Holmes
    They do. You can guarantee that if a school ever discriminated against a student for his or her religion, every other law school in Canada would be up in arms. Law schools have bent over backwards to accommodate students of all races, religions and sexual orientations.

    I despise religion, but would defend to the death your right to practice it. Just not on the public dime, when you are using it to discriminate against others who don't share your religious delusions.
  • Sarah
    Well then there's no real issue is there? TWU is a private institution, funded by private donors, sponsors, and tuition. Defend away!
  • Jessie
    This is very disappointing. There could just as easily be an article about students from seven schools across Canada who submitted a letter in support.

    I find it disturbing that Canadian law deans and students are showing such disdain for the law. In first year Constitutional Law, many of our schools teach TWU v BCCT. Eight judges upheld TWU's right to have a covenant reflective of its theology.

    In addition to ignoring the law, the authors do not care to read the covenant or look at the experience at TWU. There are openly gay students, some of whom have come forward to defend the institution recently. While they may disagree with the provision related to marriage, they support that a private community has this right and in choosing to enter the community respect this.

    In order to appease the signatories here, we would need to get rid of all private education AND stop Christians from practicing law. Fortunately, in Canada that should never be the case.
  • Pam
    In general, I strongly agree with Jessie's comment. However, I would amend the last sentence. A third option is that Canadian professional education, including legal education, be separated from Universities--in the big 'U' sense--in general. I think THAT could someday be the case. As this issue illustrates, we need it NOW.
  • Joel
    It is interesting how opponents of the TWU law school never bother to check with how the policies of the university are applied. TWU currently has gay students enrolled in its myriad of other programmes but no one seems to have the presence of mind to actually talk the students and the administration about how these issues are actually handled. Instead, wild assumptions are drawn to the detriment of truth and clarity.

    It is unfortunate that opposition to privately funded religious institutions is so strong amongst a profession that should be embracing tolerance in our increasingly religiously diverse society. Privately funded religious education is only set to rise with the influx of new Canadians who are more typically more religious that long-term residents of Canada.

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