B.C. school’s pledge to ban sex outside of heterosexual marriage now optional for students

Community convenant of Langley’s Trinity Western University has been centre of rights debate

Trinity Western University’s community covenant is no longer mandatory for students.

The Langley-based university has decided to change its requirements surrounding a controversial covenant that forbids sexual intimacy outside of marriage, which is defined as between a man and a woman.

The covenant, which all students, staff and faculty at TWU, a private Christian university, were expected to sign, will become optional for students, but will still apply to staff and faculty.

A statement issued Tuesday by TWU President Bob Kuhn said the decision was made by the university board of governors on Thursday, Aug. 9.

“In a decision that I believe will successfully position us to better fulfill the TWU Mission, the Board of Governors has passed the following motion: ‘In furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy, the Community Covenant will no longer be mandatory as of the 2018-19 Academic year with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the University.’”

Kuhn said the university will “actively work to determine ways in which our Christian identity, mission and ministry can continue to be strengthened, communicated and better lived-out in the context of the TWU community while simultaneously welcoming and affirming the unique value of each member of our diverse student body.”

“Let there be no confusion regarding the Board of Governors’ resolution; our mission remains the same,” Kuhn added.

The announcement drew a positive, but cautious response from Kasari Govender the executive director of West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), one of the groups that went to court to argue against approving the law school while the covenant was in effect.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Govender.

“I certainly think it’s a positive step (but) it’s not sufficient to alleviate our concerns about discrimination.”

West Coast LEAF intervened in the BC case at all levels of court to argue that the covenant discriminates against people who choose to exercise their reproductive rights and discriminates on the basis of “sexual orientation and marital status by prohibiting all relationships that are not heterosexual and between married people.”

Govender said there are “constitutional issues” that would have to be considered before a law school would be considered acceptable, including the fact that the covenant is still mandatory for faculty and staff.

“Does it really mean this is a law school that won’t be exclusionary?” Govender said.

Several law societies have said they would not recognize degrees issued by a proposed school of law at Trinity because of the covenant.

The law school was granted preliminary approval by the provincial government in 2013, but that approval was later withdrawn because of the various legal challenges mounted by critics in the legal community, who complained the clause was anti-gay and would violate a lawyer’s duty to represent all clients.

In June, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of two Canadian Law Societies to refuse accreditation for a proposed law school at Trinity Western University.

READ MORE: Supreme Court of Canada rules against TWU in fight over law school

Both the Law Societies of B.C. and Ontario objected to the community covenant, arguing it discriminates against LGBTQ students.

The LSBC initially approved the law school at the private Christian university in Langley, but later withdrew that approval because of controversy over the covenant.

“There can be no question that the LSBC was entitled to consider an inequitable admissions policy in determining whether to approve the proposed law school. Its mandate is broad,” the judgment stated.

“In promoting the public interest in the administration of justice and, relatedly, public confidence in the legal profession, the LSBC was entitled to consider an admissions policy that imposes inequitable and harmful barriers to entry.”

The court ruled that the LSBC decision “did not limit religious freedom to a significant extent…”

While Canadian law protects the rights of people to hold personal religious beliefs, that right has to be balanced against the effect they have on other people, the court found.

“In this case, the effect of the mandatory covenant is to restrict the conduct of others. The LSBC’s decision prevents the risk of significant harm to LGBTQ people who feel they have no choice but to attend TWU’s proposed law school. These individuals would have to deny who they are for three years to receive a legal education. Being required by someone else’s religious beliefs to behave contrary to one’s sexual identity is degrading and disrespectful.”

READ MORE: Trinity Western University in Langley sues law society over law school

During the legal battle, Kuhn noted the TWU covenant also says that “all students and faculty are to love and respect other people, regardless of their background or personal characteristics. TWU is a community of diversity and acceptance. This campus is a Christian home for four thousand students with an array of opinions and beliefs.”

Tag

Just Posted

In Pictures: Expression Sessions hangs ten

Wave gods smile on the 10th edition of the Haida Gwaii surf festival

Haida Gwaii Sea Cadets set sail

Some young salts joined the Remembrance Day parade in Queen Charlotte last… Continue reading

Rough seas delay Prince Rupert/Haida Gwaii ferry

Northern Expedition is expected to leave Prince Rupert for Haida Gwaii at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 13

In Pictures: Remembrance Day in Queen Charlotte

Drums, bells and bagpipes sounded across Haida Gwaii this Remembrance Day, which… Continue reading

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Baloney Meter: Will tougher penalties for gang members make Canada safer?

Since 2013, gang-related homicides in Canada’s largest cities have almost doubled

Early data suggests no spike in pot-impaired driving after legalization: police

Some departments said it’s too early to provide data, others said initial numbers suggest stoned driving isn’t on the rise

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Most Read