Recently Trinity Western University sought approval of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to establish a law school on its campus in Langley, British Columbia. Preliminary approval has been granted by the Federation as well as by the Law Society of British Columbia and B.C.’s Advanced Education Ministry.
But the bar societies of Nova Scotia and Ontario have moved to deny accreditation to Trinity’s future law school graduates on the grounds that the University requires prospective students to sign a covenant asking them to abstain from any kind of sexual intimacy outside of marriage as defined between a man and a woman. Apparently the law societies of Nova Scotia and Ontario view this requirement as something that would interfere with graduates of the law school being able to practice their profession without prejudice.
However, Bob Kuhn, president of Trinity Western University, and a practicing lawyer himself, believes there is a legitimate distinction between a religious institution’s right to hold a requirement consistent with its faith position and the ability of its graduates to be objective in practicing law in Canadian society. Those who hold his view would maintain that those of faith have a right to any religious conviction as long as they publicly defend every individual right in the Canadian Charter. In other words, there is a difference between holding a belief and acting on it where it might infringe on persons’ human rights.
In regard to beliefs about homosexuality, for example (which is why this matter has become an issue in this particular case), it is totally legal for a person to hold to a biblical view concerning the sinfulness of homosexuality, but it is not legal to actually discriminate against one who identifies themselves in that way by denying that person the right of justice, or any other human right. Trinity Western, according to Bob Kuhn, accepts and graduates students whose professed sexual orientation is homosexual. In other words, it does not discriminate about any person’s application to come to the University on the basis of his or her sexual orientation. But it does expect all of its students to abide by a code of conduct that limits sexual activity outside of marriage simply because, as a faith institution, it upholds the biblical view that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.
I think this principled distinction is very helpful and instructive for churches as well. Based on a variety of Scripture references that define God’s will for sexual intimacy as something sacred and holy within marriage between a man and a woman, and others that clearly condemn the practice of fornication, adultery, and homosexuality for this reason, it is perfectly legal for churches who believe Scripture to be their final authority before God, to teach and preach that perspective in a variety of ways. But churches should be careful not to deny participation on the basis of a person’s perceived sexual orientation just as they should not deny participation on the basis of people’s natural tendencies to lustful behaviour in other ways as well.
As fallen, sinful people we all have tendencies and desires that are contrary to the will of God. It is the grace of God that enables us to recognize our sinful urges and put our trust in Christ for his forgiveness (which he is able to grant us because of his death on the cross), and also for his power to live according to his will. From what I can see, if we’re going to be consistent with what the Bible has to say about these things, this is the only way to deal with the challenge of those who feel homosexual tendencies. It is just as immoral to act out lustful desires heterosexually as it is homosexually. In one way or another we are all sinners and in need of God’s saving grace in our lives. Having come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, it is up to each of us who have been forgiven to trust in him to help us live according to his will.