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Why I voted against approving Trinity Western's proposed law school

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A lesbian walks into a Torts class at Trinity Western University in Langley. Her name is Mary. Even before the discussion of Donoghue v. Stevenson begins, Mary is told to leave because she admits to having engaged in a "sexual expression of intimacy" with her same-sex partner at their home in Surrey.

"But we're married," she says. It doesn't matter.

"But we're devout Evangelical Christians; active members of the congregation at the Renaissance Christian Church in East Vancouver," she pleads. It doesn't matter.

"But we are deeply and fundamentally committed to the person and work of Jesus Christ," she cries. It doesn't matter.

Mary is gay. That's what matters. And that's why I voted against approving TWU's proposed law school on Tuesday.

Policy Note readers will likely know that TWU has proposed to open a new law school, which would require all students, faculty and staff to sign a "Community Covenant." The Covenant expressly discriminates against LGBTQ students and others. Among other things, it requires members of the TWU community to abstain from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

In recent months, TWU has sought the accreditation of its law school by B.C.'s Law Society. In April, the governors, or "Benchers," of the Law Society decided to grant this approval. On Tuesday, however, over 3,000 Law Society members, myself included, directed the Benchers to reverse their decision.

TWU's president says that the disapproval of its law school by B.C. lawyers is an affront to TWU's religious community and to many other people of faith; it sends a message "that they're not welcome to engage in the public square of Canadian pluralistic society."

But my vote sends no such message. Nor does my vote represent a threat, capable of interfering with anyone's religious beliefs or practices.

Quite the contrary.

My vote insists that TWU's law school treat all people with charity and respect, in accordance with the second paragraph of the Community Covenant.

My vote demands that the TWU community strive to achieve respectful and purposeful unity aimed at the advancement of all, recognizing the diversity of viewpoints and life journeys -- as per section 1 of the Covenant.

My vote, like section 3 of the Covenant, encourages the cultivation of virtues such as love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility, and justice. My vote, like the Covenant, promotes communication that builds others up, according to their needs, for the benefit of all. My vote, like the Covenant, maintains that all persons must be treated with respect and dignity.

I have no doubt that the legal arguments in defence of TWU's discriminatory law school will ultimately fail. So rather than undertaking this long, hurtful and fruitless legal and political journey, perhaps TWU's leaders should consider simply living up to the ideals that they aspire to represent.

I expect that Mary would welcome this gesture of grace.

Photo: R Orville Lyttle/flickr

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