Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sign of tolerance in an intolerant society

  • Print

TRAIL, B.C. -- When equality and religious rights butt heads, as in the controversy over the proposed law school at Trinity Western University, Canadians need thoughtful analysis and informed discussion, not knee-jerk reactions. The recent decision of the Law Society of B.C. to approve the proposed TWU's Faculty of Law shows a principled approach to a thorny problem.

There is considerable opposition to the proposed law school at the privately funded Christian university, also approved by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and various provincial and territorial law societies. A lawsuit has been filed against the B.C. government for approving the school and a B.C. lawyer has circulated a petition to members of the B.C. bar to force the Law Society to reconsider its decision.

At issue is a clause in TWU's Community Covenant Agreement that reads, "Further, according to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman..."

The Community Covenant Agreement at TWU is a roadmap for personal and community conduct. It is based on the institution's acceptance, as expressed in the agreement, that the Bible is "the divinely inspired, authoritative guide for personal and community life."

All TWU faculty, staff and students agree to abide by the covenant, and to model themselves after biblical virtues, as interpreted according to the university's evangelical Protestant tradition.

The traditional view of marriage and sexuality expressed in the Community Covenant is a sincerely held religious belief and the university requires a level of sexual restraint from all its members. Nevertheless, the implications of the clause discriminate against the enrolment of LGBT persons, and have called into question the university's ability to properly train individuals who, as lawyers, must swear an oath to uphold the rights and freedoms of all people.

Because of this clause, the proposed Faculty of Law at TWU raises complex questions about religious freedom, freedom of association and equality.

There are no easy answers when the rights of two disparate groups conflict. The benchers of the Law Society waded through approximately 2,000 pages of material before making a decision. In a rigorous examination of issues and opinions, the Law Society considered legal advice from a number of advisers, federation reports and close to 300 public submissions, which were nearly evenly divided for and against TWU.

Because rights and freedoms are not absolute, it is sometimes necessary to balance them against each other. In the balancing act, there are no clear winners, as the Law Society debate illustrates: TWU did not come out smelling like a rose even though the benchers voted in its favour.

Whether we agree or disagree with the decision, the process of respectful and informed debate can help us more comprehensively grasp nuanced issues, and lead us to a more compassionate understanding of those whose beliefs, lifestyles and identities differ from our own.

The controversy is an example of the tension that exists in Canadian society between religious rights and equality rights. This tension is not going to go away. No matter on which side of the fence we find ourselves, we need to work at respecting the rights of others and honouring the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We cannot "live and let live" only when the manner of living falls into line with our worldview. To do so runs the risk of swapping one form of intolerance for another.


Troy Media columnist Louise McEwan has degrees in English and Theology. She has a background in education and faith formation.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2014 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg police address homicides targeting homeless community

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JJOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-Postcard  Day-Horror frost and fog created a most beautiful setting at Assiniboine Park Thursday morning in WInnipeg- Enviroent Canada says the fog will lifet this morning and will see a high of -7C-  JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Feb 18, 2010
  • A Canada goose flies towards the sun near the Perimeter Highway North and Main St Monday afternoon – See Day 10 for Bryksa’s 30 goose project - May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google