You would think that a cornerstone of equality would be the right to freedom of religion, belief and expression.
However, Prof. Barry Bussey says in Canada, the argument for equality is actually being used to undermine those core beliefs for students at Trinity Western University (TWU).
How can ‘equality’ trump freedom of religion?
Dr Barry Bussey is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame Australia (Sydney), the Director of Legal Affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and an experienced litigator for religious freedom at every level of the Canadian judicial system.
The trouble began, explains Prof. Bussey, when TWU sought to establish a law school, and proceeded through normal channels to gain the necessary accreditation.
“Advocacy groups lobbied the Federation of the Law Societies of Canada, saying don’t accredit TWU because [the university] requires students to sign a document saying they will not engage in sexual practices while they’re students that would violate the definition of marriage as one man and one woman,” he says.
The case is about to be heard by Canada’s Supreme Court. There have been years of litigation in lower courts in relation to TWU’s right to set standards in accordance with their beliefs as a private, religious institution.
If TWU loses the case, though, students will be stripped of their ability to practise law in Canada.
“The argument for equality rights has become inflated to such a degree that we’re now willing to use it as a superior right against religious freedom,” Prof. Bussey explains.
The sole cause for this case is Canada’s redefinition of marriage.
“One [board member] in Ontario said, ‘The fact that we had the redefinition of marriage is why we are here today’,” Prof. Bussey says. “If there wasn’t this redefinition, chances are we wouldn’t have this Trinity Western University case.”
Prof. Bussey believes the nature of religious freedom will change dramatically in Canada if TWU loses the case. He says that just the mere fact that someone is offended by the failure to support a non-traditional definition of marriage becomes grounds for legal action.
“It’s a huge change in the attitude of the legal profession which says, as a result of this redefinition, we must now challenge your right to practise what you believe on your own religious campus.”
Supplied and authorised by Michael Kellahan, Freedom for Faith, Level 3, 13-15 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW.
About the Organisation: Freedom for Faith is a legal think tank that protects and promotes religious freedom in Australia and beyond.