Saturday, July 27, 2013

Clayton Ruby to challenge Christian B.C. law school

A prominent criminal and civil rights lawyer in Toronto is looking to rekindle opposition to a proposed new law school at a Christian university in British Columbia that bars “sexual intimacy” among homosexuals.

Trinity Western University is a private liberal-arts school in Langley, B.C. It applied for accreditation to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada in the summer of 2012. Controversy arose within the legal and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities because all students, staff and faculty at the school must adhere to a covenant in which they promise not to lie, cheat or steal, and agree not to engage in “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

A footnote to this dictate points to a Biblical passage condemning homosexuality.

The covenant, lawyer Clayton Ruby told The Globe and Mail’s editorial board, essentially creates a “queer quota” in university law schools. Canadian universities have a total of 3,547 places for first-year law students. The proposed Trinity Western law school would add 60.

“If you’re queer, you can’t apply to the extra 60 seats,” Mr. Ruby said. “… We find that just to be anathema.”

Mr. Ruby acknowledged that the covenant affects all the university’s students, but said he is targeting the law school as a first step out of concern that lawyers would get their training in ethics and rights in an environment he thinks is contrary to Canadian laws.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has set up a special advisory committee to deal with the controversy. It has received more than 30 submissions from interested groups. The federation said that it will take applicable law into account, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, as the decision draws nearer, Mr. Ruby is voicing concern that the issue the federation is examining – whether Trinity Western graduates would discriminate against the LGBT community in their careers – is the wrong question. He and three other lawyers were dissatisfied after meetings to make their case with the Ontario representative on the advisory committee and the treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

“We got really cold hostility. They don’t want a fuss over this. They would love it to just pass through and not be a fuss,” Mr. Ruby said. “The feel I got from meeting with these people is they really were not going to stick their necks out on this one and that it might very well go through.”

A spokesperson for the Federation of Law Societies of Canada was not available to comment.

A Trinity Western spokesperson said the university will not give interviews until after the decision, which could come before the end of August. But it has argued that students choose the university knowing they will be obliged to obey the covenant.

When the university proposed the law school last year, it wrote on its website: “Establishing a law school has been on the strategic plan for the university for many years and fits well with the university’s mission to develop godly leaders for the marketplaces of life.”

The university receives no public funds, except competitive research grants that faculty are awarded, but the proposed law school has encountered substantial opposition in the legal community, most notably from the Canadian Bar Association and the Council of Canadian Law Deans.

Bob Gallagher, a co-founder of Canadians for Equal Marriage in 2002, said news of the law school proposal is not well known in B.C.

“To us, it is really quite offensive that you would be able to bar us from being able to even apply to a limited number of seats to be able to practice law,” Mr. Gallagher said.

Both Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Ruby said they are not opposed to people practising their religion, but they do object when it excludes certain groups of people.