I Disagree with what they say – But…

I don’t envy British Columbia’s Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk as he tries to jockey himself into a politically favourable position in the Trinity Western University dispute. Months ago his ministry, along with the Federation of Law Societies and the BC Law Society approved a move by TWU to establish a faculty of law on its Fraser Valley campus.
In short order the accreditation moves were challenged in Nova Scotia and Ontario. Lawyers in both provinces voted to deny any graduates from TWU’s yet to be formed law school the right to practice in their provinces. The BC Law Society took a second look at its original support given in April, by formal vote among all members in June decided to switch from supporters to deniers and join Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Minister Virk is now promising his own second look with a warning that with court challenges approaching he may, just may, have to withdraw his endorsement for the new law school. He must think and move carefully before making decisions on matters involving religious beliefs which are fractured and change at the core of every denomination.
The lawyers united against law school accreditation for TWU base their arguments for denial on a clause in a “Covenant” the university requires all students, administrators and faculty to sign before enrollment or employment. By signing students and staff agree to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
As noted a week ago the WTD Mandate also sets a high bar for other Christian moral values, but the so called “gay clause” appears to be the only one upsetting protesting lawyers. Clayton Ruby, named in the Globe and Mail (Nov. 19,2014) as one of the lawyers leading the legal challenge against WTU, quotes him as saying Virk’s original blessing for the law school bid would create “ a two tiered system of legal education”. It would lead, he is quoted as saying, to a situation where an openly gay student would be “treated like a second class citizen”.
Ruby is confident he and other objectors to WTD’s law school will win when the case goes to court December 1. He suggested to the Globe that Virk is now backing down from his original support because he knows it is impossible for him to win.
Ruby could be right. Heaven knows our courts make strange decisions from time to time, but I have faith that those adjudicating this case will have the legal and common sense to understand that Western Trinity is a private institution. It does not receive any capital or operating funding from the government. It is a Christian faith-based school. Its mandate sets high, historically held Christian values.
Personally I would never sign their mandate. Nor should anyone disagreeing with such a mandate carefully, clearly, spelled out.
TWU is not the only religious organization offering education with faith related demands. Catholic schools throughout the world, although tarred heavily in recent years by adherents who pledged their faith, but then betrayed it, still offer high standards of education in their faith based schools, colleges and universities.
In Britain, Church of England Schools rate highly, even though their church was created by King Henry VIII to make divorce easy and remove adultery from the list of mortal sins. It was left to non-conformist Scottish Presbyterian John Knox to try and bring some of the old reverence back to marriage and stamp out adultery – then and now the main cause for divorce. In his “mandate” marriage could only be terminated by adultery but Knox and his mentor Calvin, deplored the fact that adulterers could only be excommunicated not executed. The innocent party was free to re-marry. The guilty party could be forgiven after a public expression of repentance and “if they cannot remain continent…we cannot forbid them to use the remedy ordained by God” and marry again.
Catholics have been trying to sort out sex, marriage and-divorce problems for centuries. It still does not recognize the existence of divorce, same sex marriage or homosexuality in any form.
I just hope the courts and Minister Virk do their due diligence and it is courts understand that beneath the Christian umbrella there are many widely different. We do not have to agree with them or accept them – but we should firmly defend the right of any group of people to believe what they will.

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