The B.C. Civil Liberties Association argued in B.C. Supreme Court today that the B.C. College of Teachers has no legal grounds to refuse accreditation to Trinity Western University’s teaching program. The civil rights group is intervening in the judicial review of the College’s decision requested by TWU.
In refusing to accredit the program, despite a recommendation from its own committee that the TWU program passed academic muster, the College cited the discriminatory nature of TWU’s code of conduct. That code requires students to refrain from “biblically condemned” practices such as premarital sex, adultery and “homosexual behaviour”. The College also expressed concern that TWU graduates are more likely to discriminate against homosexuals once they began teaching.
The BCCLA argued today that although TWU’s code may have the effect of discriminating against gays and lesbians who want to attend the University:
- there is no evidence that TWU graduates are any more likely to discriminate against homosexuals students in carrying out their teaching duties
- in making accreditation decisions, the College has no mandate to consider whether or not an institution has a discriminatory policy and
- TWU is a private religious institution that has a right to limit entrance to those students who share fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
BCCLA counsel Tim Delaney, of the law firm Lindsay Kenney, said, “The issue is not whether homosexuality is right or wrong or whether one agrees with the code of conduct of Trinity Western University. It is about whether an agency of the state can dictate on matters when it has no authority to do so. It is about whether individuals may come together, form a private institution, and freely agree to a code of conduct. Just as the religious should not force their views on the secular, the secular should not deny the religious their institutions.”
Delaney added, “The College’s job is to ensure that teachers are properly trained and educational institutions which train teachers meet academic standards. Members of the Council of the College need have no expertise in human rights issues, and there is no process within the College for assessing human rights matters. In fact, contrary to the College’s view, TWU’s code would likely be exempted by section 19 of the Human Rights Code.”
“What we are witnessing is a modern form of McCarthyism,” said John Westwood, BCCLA Executive Director, “Will the College be asking all applicants whether they are or ever have been a student at Trinity Western University? A member of a fundamentalist Christian church? A member of other religions which view homosexuality as sinful?”
Westwood added, “The College’s aim is to address the very real problem of harassment and discrimination against gay and lesbian students. The BCCLA applauds that aim. However, the College can best further that aim by educating teachers about the problem and disciplining any teacher who acts in a discriminatory manner or allows students to do so in the classroom.”