Time and time again we come back to God-given (or, natural) rights being superseded by the temporary and limited government ‘rights’.
As many in the West watch their societies become enriched and engineered beyond all recognition, this fin-de-siecle spectacle of European civilization becomes fascinating for those of us still mired in the ‘before times’. One of these points of interest is the battle of government-given ‘rights’ that continue to ever-compete in the ever-diminishing phase-space that is circumscribed as the ‘oppressed’. Indeed, the oppressed are finding themselves having to fight hard amongst themselves more and more often to keep that wedge of a never-increasing pie-of-rights in their sticky grasp.
Trinity Western’s law school will focus its programs on preparing to help people who struggle to pay for legal services. Many Canadians cannot afford a lawyer, and that is an access to justice issue. All Canadians deserve the opportunity to get legal advice and representation when the need arises. [TWULS]
Trinity Western University Law School (TWULS) is aiming to open campuses in British Columbia and Ontario. It’s focus is to be on clients that struggle to pay for and retain a lawyer: charitable and non-profit organizations (which represent 20% of Canada’s workforce), and small business. It will also operate without any government funding, relying solely on student fees and its own private endowments. TWULS will be Canada’s first faith-based law school, in this case the faith being Christianity.
The University is an interrelated academic community rooted in the evangelical Protestant tradition; it is made up of Christian administrators, faculty and staff who, along with students choosing to study at TWU, covenant together to form a community that strives to live according to biblical precepts, believing that this will optimize the University’s capacity to fulfil its mission and achieve its aspirations. [TWULS Community Covenant]
Today, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario have the power to refuse accreditation, and thus their graduates’ academic credentials not being recognized in the pursuit of the respective bars. These law societies brought the action, arguing that it was within their mandate to refuse accreditation, as to do so would not provide a positive public perception of the legal profession in the respective provinces. The matter at hand was the school’s ‘covenant’, which clearly points to both faculty and students pledging to commit to the basic precepts of Christianity. It is worth noting that Trinity Western University is an accredited university and offers many degree courses, attendance within still requires commitment to the community covenant. However, the law school, for its graduates to be able to practice, requires accreditation for provincial law societies.
In arguing against accreditation, and maintaining that a positive public perception of the legal profession is critical, the law society of Ontario in particular determined that the covenant was deeply discriminatory to the LGBT community. The defining point of the Supreme Court was that it was “proportionate and reasonable¹” to limit the religious freedoms in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights & Freedoms (s2(a)), in order to provide inclusion for, and not harm, the LGBT community. An example point to this contention was that, in requiring students to commit to abstain from sexual relations before marriage, as per Christian teachings, this would infringe on the LGBT community’s rights.
Even though these freedoms are very important, governments can sometimes limit them. For example, laws against pornography and hate propaganda are reasonable limits on freedom of expression because they prevent harm to individuals and groups. [Guide to Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms]
As the guide to the Charter states, ‘fundamental freedoms’ (apparently) can be limited or infringed by the government. It is logically and legally unclear as to how a fundamental freedom can be superseded or usurped by something that is presumably not fundamental, but this is how today’s decision was reached. By enforcing the covenant, the law school is causing harm to the LGBT community.
The fact that the LBGT community ‘won’ the Battle Of The Rights ™ with the Christian community is not the main point. It is becoming abundantly clear that when it comes to the fundamental freedom to practice religion, the Christian religion at least is starting to lose on all legal fronts, with the excuse of harm to the LBGT community being the most convenient mode of attack. The main point is that governments can never give individuals ‘fundamental freedoms’, especially when they can limit or infringe on these ‘freedoms’ fairly easily. The natural rights as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, and codified in the Bill of Rights, point to God as the provider of our natural rights. No man, no government, no community, no organization can ever take them away.
¹ CBC, Kathleen Harris; Trinity Western loses fight for Christian law school