Law School Lamentations
I used to be afraid of my apathy about this case. I struggled to find it within myself to let this case affect my concern. I did not feel the urgency about this issue of “religious freedom.” It wasn’t an issue that I wanted to align myself with. The Bible does not discuss religious freedom. Religious freedom is a modern, rational construct created by Enlightenment thinkers who believed policy should be based on what was rational and self-evident, versus on a subjective morality. Religious freedom is integral to the structure of a rational democracy. Religious freedom is a part of the “separation of church and state.” The purpose of the separation of church and state is not to oppress the church, nor religious freedom. Instead, it is mutually beneficial. The separation of church and state protects the church from state interference and the church from the government’s interference.
My purpose for these responses is for us to evaluate our spiritual, personal and professional formation in context of current global and local events.
We have been told that this case has made us advocates for religious freedom. We have been made complicit in a system which oppresses a community who is beloved by God. Either way, we must come to terms with the fact this story has made us agents in the public sphere. Every time you pay your tuition, or you dedicate effort to a Trinity class, you use a spiritual rubric, including the covenant, to evaluate your behaviour. You are making a political statement.
I lament the fact that we are having this conversation in the public sphere. I lament the fact that our community is being defined in the language of rational, tolerant democracy. I lament the fact that the public sphere needed to take action for us to recognize the pain and dehumanization felt by members of our community. I lament the fact that we are not initiating the reconciliation process internally.
This is not a battle against flesh and blood. This is a battle against the spiritual forces of evil in this world.
The outcome of this case is not indicative of God’s sovereignty. I believe I have seen evidence of evil attempting to create division which erodes the calling and purpose of students of Trinity Western. In sum, our challenge going forward, here in the private sphere–regardless of the outcome in the public sphere–is to address the divisions which inhibit our true purpos
A Covenant After Yahweh’s
The law school: a hot topic from the moment each freshman steps on campus. Most first years heard about it before they even got here, but the issue becomes real when they become a part of the institution itself. Daily social media provides new thoughts regarding Trinity and the various issues surrounding the law school, especially concerning the LGBTQ+ dilemma.
Here I am, brand new to Trinity. I love the people here and the unique perspectives on current issues. The question arises: are you on the side of Jesus or the world? At a Christian university, most will answer that the Lord should have the final word. But, is the Lord fighting for the final word? Or is Trinity? I see an issue, here. Maybe Trinity has a problem, or perhaps the world needs to respect our religious freedom.
However, people must see the covenant as it is, human made. People prize this instruction because we are convinced of its’ power and are conditioned to conflate our covenant with Yahweh’s.
If Yahweh in Heaven Himself, forms and moulds His covenant with humanity over time, then should His people do the same? Could the humans in God’s image, mould our covenant to meet humanity on our journey?
This is not so Christians conform to the pattern of this world, but so we extend grace as far as the east and west reaches. Jesus includes sinning and broken human beings into his family, and you and I are some of them. Our diverse brothers and sisters (or non-binary folks) are no different. Being inclusive reflects the character of Christ, and our words, policies and conduct should continue to emulate that.
Defining Christian Communities
I graduated from Trinity in 2011 with a B.Sc. in Biology and Chemistry. Within a year of graduating at Trinity, I started my coming out process, which included coming out to many members of the Trinity community (alumni, current students, and staff). I was amazed at the love and support I felt from all of these people. Because of this positive experience, I wrote an affidavit describing my time at Trinity as a (closeted) gay man and the generosity and love that members of the Trinity community showed me.
When Trinity says that their intention is to graduate lawyers and teachers who are not prejudiced against LGBTQ+ students and clients, I believe them. When Trinity says that a law school on their campus would be unique, and have a positive role in Canadian society, I believe them. In my work and training, I’ve seen the injustice and evil that those on the margins can suffer at the hands of the more powerful and resourceful. There is great potential for a Christian legal education and academics to do some powerful redemptive work in this avenue.
Trinity’s community is defined by staff, students/alumni, and administration. In retrospect, I have recognized that my positive experience in coming out to the Trinity community has been greatly due to staff and students/alumni at Trinity. However, being closeted while a student, my path never led me into interactions with the administration. So while I have publicly stated that my time at Trinity was one free from discrimination and that my coming out was positive, my story can not be indicative of Trinity administration’s attitude. This is not meant to be a negative review, only neutral – I can not comment, based on my experience as a student, on the administration.
Unfortunately, I fear that my affidavit has legitimized the administration’s “everything is fine” approach to their LGBTQ+ students. Since signing it, I have met many other LGBTQ+ alumni and students with stories different from my own who truly suffered while at Trinity, and were met with either ambivalence from administration or hostility. The administration has hid behind the fact that LGBTQ+ students have attended the university, as though this means that they were not discriminated against. The willful ignorance on the complex issues at play here is painful to see in an institution of higher education.
I maintain much love for the Trinity community, and a belief that the university is filled with people who understand the love of Christ.
I truly hope that Trinity will drastically improve their practical response to LGBTQ members of their community in the coming years, and will be able to re-examine the community covenant to define our community using inclusive instead of exclusive terminology.
Although I have only been asked to comment on how my story has been represented, I would appeal to administration and to the broader community to accept that there is a diversity of opinion on this topic within honest and earnest Christian communities. Please understand that it is possible (and necessary for Christian community!) to worship and study alongside those with whom you disagree on this or any topic. Let’s define Christian communities by who we accept instead of who we exclude.
Nothing But Love for Others
Despite my personal connection to the Trinity Law school being a Trinity student, this law case is crucial for all people of faith and institutions across Canada. The idea that a Christian school founded on a document exalting “Jesus Christ” is somehow surprising or offensive to people, is bewildering. Clearly we have many religious institutions in Canada and they are all founded on their specific religious beliefs. Even Trinity, the institution, holds to certain tenets that not all Christians believe, or all members of the Trinity community hold; this is part of religious freedom. Thus, this case is about so much more than a law school. It’s about people of faith being free to exercise their religious rights. If Trinity can’t have a law school, other religious schools won’t have the freedom to act either, Christian or not. This case will set a precedent for all future questions of religious freedom, and if lost, may subject Canadians to a future of secularism that cannot be reversed.
I am also perplexed by the assumption that someone who has signed Trinity’s Community Covenant would act differently under the law, than an individual who has not, and therefore, Trinity should disseminate these lawyers into the public sphere. Lawyers accept and uphold the boundaries of the law and seek universal justice, regardless of their personal beliefs. For people to assume that Christian lawyers will discriminate against others, they must also assume that Christian psychologists or businesspeople will also have the same bias, yet we do not see pushback against educating Christians in those areas. Lawyers, no matter their religion, must adhere to the same standard, so why discriminate? Is it not hypocritical that Trinity’s proposed school of law is facing discrimination because people fear that Trinity Law graduates will discriminate?
Trinity has taught me how to love others, and the community here fosters an attitude of service and respect.
Empowering Trinity students to become lawyers is a catalyst for change that will positively impact our nation, but on a larger scale, will promote the religious freedoms of all Canadians, no matter what god they worship.