What poses a bigger threat to Canada: A small Christian university that endorses traditional ideas about marriage? Or a large group of liberal activists who want to stomp all over them?
That's easy. It's the Christians. Progressive people across the land have been waging war against Trinity Western University and its plan to start a law school. Now that the school has been approved in B.C., they want to make sure the graduates are shunned, ostracized and never allowed to practise law anywhere in Canada.
They lost a big one last week, when the B.C. Law Society reluctantly voted to recognize the law school and its graduates. The West Coast Women's Legal Education Action Fund expressed its disappointment, saying that "TWU's discriminatory policy effectively excludes LGBTQ students from access to the benefits of a legal education at the university."
Well, not really. The problem is the university's conservative views on sex, which apply to everyone. It asks all students to sign a pledge saying they won't have sex outside of marriage. And Christian tradition doesn't recognize gay marriage. That's it – it's a conduct issue, not an issue of belief or identity. It doesn't mean gay students aren't welcome. Yet this simple request has been blown up into a case of monstrous discrimination against gay students. Never mind that if they don't like the rules, there are umpteen other law schools they can apply to. Meantime, graduates from a Christian law school will surely be homophobic, and spread their prejudices far and wide, right? And some will become judges, and then what?
The idea of a vast Christian conspiracy to roll back gay rights is as ludicrous as anything Joe McCarthy dreamed up. But times are different now. Righteous moral certainty and demands for censorship used to be vices of the right. Now they are most often vices of the left.
The past few weeks have delivered bucketfuls of depressing examples. Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, the company that developed Firefox, lost his job over a thought crime. Six years ago, he donated a small amount of money to a campaign to retain the traditional definition of marriage in California. (Most people voted for it.) He has no personal history of insensitivity or discrimination. But he refused to say he had changed his mind, and so he had to go. Here's what Bill Maher had to say about it: "I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked."
Then there's Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a personal hero of mine, a brave and outspoken critic of the kind of Islam that oppresses women. She was disinvited from receiving an honorary degree at Brandeis University after the president of that noble institution was shocked – shocked! – to learn that she'd said some harsh things about Islam. That statement was a lie. She was disinivited because 85 or so out of 350 faculty members signed a petition demanding that she be stricken from the honours list. Shame on them. The petition was started by the Muslim Students Association. So much for academic freedom.
People who have doubts about global warming are especially dangerous. Some activists think these people should be silenced, even jailed. Two months ago, The Washington Post received a petition demanding a ban on any article that questions global warming. It was signed by 110,000 people, and was obviously aimed at pugnacious columnist Charles Krauthammer. Fortunately, most newspaper publishers have more spine than university presidents, and Mr. Krauthammer was allowed to continue spreading his heresies.
Once upon a time (back in the Jurassic age, when I was in university), the most progressive forces in society believed passionately in free speech, tolerance, pluralism and diversity. They still claim to believe in those things – until someone says something they don't like, at which point they fight to shut them down.
Whatever you think about Christian values, Trinity Western is a first-rate school. Sadly, that won't buy it peace. Other provincial law societies are still being torn apart over the issue of whether to recognize its law graduates. Clayton Ruby, the prominent Toronto lawyer, says he's going to fight the law school's admission policy in court. You can be sure progressives will be battling this dangerous example of diversity until their dying breath.
"There is room in a democratic country like Canada for a law school at a Christian university," says TWU president Bob Kuhn. Let's hope he's right.