The Morals of Canada's Teachers ; Supreme Court Case Puts a Conservative Christian University's Stand on Homosexuality on Trial

By Ruth Walker writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 26, 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Morals of Canada's Teachers ; Supreme Court Case Puts a Conservative Christian University's Stand on Homosexuality on Trial


Ruth Walker writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Every one of the 2,850 students at this private Christian university located on a quiet, almost rural, campus is asked to sign a code of conduct. That code includes no smoking, no premarital sex, no gambling, no cheating, no pornography, and no homosexual behavior.

Those prohibitions are not unusual at many conservative Christian schools. But the last part, about homosexuality, has landed Trinity Western University in Canada's Supreme Court.

In the United States, there's an enduring tension between religion and education. Now Canada awaits a decision from its highest court on whether the religious beliefs behind the Trinity code render graduates of the university unfit to teach in secular public schools. The court's decision could affect any student with religious training seeking to become a licensed professional.

In 1996 the British Columbia College of Teachers, the agency that accredits teacher training programs in this province, refused to accredit Trinity. The agency says that Trinity grads, as teachers, might be intolerant of gay students in their classrooms.

"It's the first case that squarely raises the need to balance the equality claims of the [religious] fundamentalists and the equality claims of gays and lesbians," says Toronto lawyer Andrew Lokan, representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has intervened in the case, straddling both sides of the issue.

Says Guy Saffold, executive vice president of Trinity, "We've summarized the case this way: Can regulatory bodies deny a public benefit based on our... 'belief systems'?" Certification of its teacher education program, Mr. Saffold explains, is a "public benefit."

Private institutions play only a small role in Canadian higher education. But Trinity's case is fraught with implications for the role that people of faith - or of any worldview outside the mainstream - may play in public life here.

This case is in part about whether a "quasigovernmental tribunal" like the accreditation agency has authority to consider issues not only of technical competence but of human rights and constitutional freedoms. If the agency prevails, Saffold suggests, this could open the door for all manner of regulatory bodies, as distinct from courts, to judge the constitutional validity of different groups' belief systems - perhaps holding up a building permit or a business license over a theological issue.

"This case has tremendous implications for religious freedom," says William Sammon, an Ottawa attorney representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has intervened in the case. He notes that traditional Catholic moral teaching is quite similar to the standards embraced at Trinity.

"We made the argument that [denying accreditation] would tend to marginalize Catholic school students. They would be denied full access to public life until their religious views had been diluted or nullified.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Morals of Canada's Teachers ; Supreme Court Case Puts a Conservative Christian University's Stand on Homosexuality on Trial
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?