On the day that the Supreme Court of Canada made a big decision and a big blunder, I was too busy to notice. I organized my day so I could watch an important World Cup soccer match with my kids. When I got back to following the movement of our culture, it seemed that most people had missed the big event. And that’s how we slowly lose our grip on the world as we know it. We become more interested in our leisure time or something else than the things that matter. Rome could be burning but: “Is the game on, and is there beer in the fridge?”
On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that the law societies in B.C. and Ontario were justified in not accrediting B.C.’s Trinity Western University law school because of its school policy on premarital sex. The school required students to fulfil a pledge to refrain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Balancing the rights of religious freedom and the freedom of sexual behaviour, the court decided 7-2 in favour of law societies punishing Trinity Western. The court could have argued that students who don’t like Trinity’s rules can apply to another school. After all, doesn’t Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee religious freedom? Apparently not, because the Supreme Court has not protected religious freedom within private institutions, and religious freedom is increasingly sidelined in the public square.
Christians will be paying for this flawed ruling for years to come, forcing Christianity into a corner, while society slips further into a morass of ideologies.
This was a victory for “sex when I want to” over the “virtue of self-control.” An apparent milestone for diversity, it was actually yet another muzzle on the diversity of ideas. National Post columnist John Robson observed that it is now normal to think that “religious freedom essentially means non-religious people can disrupt a religious gathering.” Intolerance is the new tolerance.
All rules discriminate. Obviously, the B.C. law school discriminated against sexual behaviour. But it was binding for everyone at the school including teachers, students, heterosexuals and homosexuals. That was the school’s religious right (until now). The school was set up specifically on religious principles, so no one who disagrees with its principles would arguably want to go there. If you don’t like the Lions Club, join the Kiwanis Club.
The ruling from the top court comes as no surprise. Christianity has been on the run for years. Earlier this year, the federal government changed its subsidy to hire summer students to exclude Christian groups. Some university faculties increasingly look at extracurricular activities to weed out potential candidates who might be too Christian for their liking.
Andre Schutten, a lawyer for the Association for Reformed Political Action, who addressed the court as an intervenor on behalf of Trinity Western, told LifesiteNews that the implications of this case are “deep and troubling.”
On the one hand, the media tells us to proudly be who we are but to Schutten, “The basic message of the Supreme Court to me as a Christian professional is that I can be a Christian all I want within the four walls of my church but once I enter the public square, Christianity and the expression of it, including the moral commitments I hold myself to, are not welcome to be publicly shared or publicly proclaimed.”
In the next few years, we will learn how stifling this court decision will be. Ray Pennings, the executive vice-president of the faith-based think-tank Cardus, argues that “if the state, through the courts and its other agents, can reach through the gates of tiny Trinity Western University to dictate its community relations with its students and staff, what is to stop it from doing the same thing again in the future, wherever and whenever it wishes? Why would it want to stop?”
The top court has legitimized what campuses have been subjecting Christian and Jewish students to for years. Faith-based families, of which there are many in rural Ontario, have children who are in or will soon be heading to city universities, where they will see basic freedoms in the crosshairs.
The 21st century is entering a new era of persecution. People of goodwill can take heart in knowing that persecution is no anomaly. It has been the story of religion over the centuries. Persecution has always been the seed of great witnesses, vocations and renewal. And in every era, in every century, religion has outlasted every government and every empire.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org