The Vancouver Sun

Trinity Western University caves on sex and marriage, but no one calls them on it

Trinity Western University caves on sex and marriage, but no one calls them on it

I’ve been reporting for some time now on the legal woes that Trinity Western University has been having with its bid to be the first Christian law school in Canada. Like many other Christian colleges, it has a doctrinal covenant students must sign that includes a promise to abstain from sex outside of traditional marriage.

LGBTQ rights folks decided that this doctrinal stand was rampant discrimination and were successful at dislodging TWU’s bid, even as the battle went to the country’s highest court.

Then Trinity moved the chairs around a bit this past week.  

The best-written article on this change was from the National Post with a head reading: “Still seeking law school, Trinity Western drops sexual ‘covenant’ for students." It ran along with a sympathetic YouTube video about TWU, which appears with this blog post.

A Christian university in British Columbia that lost a Supreme Court battle to create an evangelical law school has dropped its controversial requirement for all students to sign a contract that forbids any sex outside heterosexual marriage.

Many observers, including some who intervened in the court case, saw this as a preliminary step toward a renewed push for an accredited law school. Trinity Western University, in Langley outside Vancouver, first announced plans to offer legal degrees in 2012, only to find itself locked in litigation with law societies in Ontario and B.C., which refused to accredit it.

The school’s new motion, passed last week but only released Tuesday, reads: “In furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy, the Community Covenant will no longer be mandatory as of the 2018-19 Academic year with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the University.”

The decision removes the primary problem considered by the Supreme Court in its June decision, which was the mandatory nature of the “Community Covenant.” 

Further down, you get the school’s denial that the change was done with ulterior motives.


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Trinity Western law school gets nixed, while the Canadian news coverage is mixed

Trinity Western law school gets nixed, while the Canadian news coverage is mixed

Just after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Colorado baker was discriminated against for his Christian beliefs that forbade him to make special same-sex-themed wedding cakes, the Canadian high court has have come out with a ruling that elevates gay rights over religious rights.

The Vancouver Sun, located not too many miles west of the Trinity Western University campus, was one of a number of Canadian outlets covering the ruling. Curiously, they used a Canadian Press wire service story instead of assigning one of its own reporters to it.  

The Sun did provide a local react story by a reporter stationed on Trinity’s campus but it seems a bit odd to run wires for the main story when the subject is in your own back yard. Anyway, here was the top of this story (as we look for a winner in the most-biased lede competition):

Societies governing the legal profession have the right to deny accreditation to a proposed law school at a Christian university in B.C., the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

In a pair of keenly anticipated decisions Friday, the high court said law societies in Ontario and British Columbia were entitled to ensure equal access to the bar, support diversity and prevent harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.

The cases pitted two significant societal values -- freedom of religion and promotion of equality -- against one another.

Trinity Western University, a private post-secondary institution in Langley, was founded on evangelical Christian principles and requires students to adhere to a covenant allowing sexual intimacy only between a married man and woman.

Well, at least that final paragraph accurately described the school's doctrinal covenant -- sort of. Notice that it's "evangelical" to teach doctrines common in all traditional Christian churches. 

The Toronto Globe and Mail had a more gracefully written intro:

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As Sikhs make headlines, the Vancouver Sun tries a little psychotherapy (and it works)

As Sikhs make headlines, the Vancouver Sun tries a little psychotherapy (and it works)

There’s been a lot in the Canadian press recently about Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party and their dealings with Sikhs. More than 30 years ago, a Sikh man living in British Columbia shot a visiting Punjabi official from India and ended up serving five years in prison. Normally, such folks wouldn’t be allowed within blocks of the Canadian prime minister.

Which is why a lot of people were shocked a few weeks ago when the shooter ended up at a Mumbai reception sponsored by the Canadian government and was on the invite list for a similar event with Trudeau in Delhi.

Naturally, more questions were asked as to just who and what is Canada’s Sikh minority. Which is why the Vancouver Sun’s spirituality and diversity columnist Douglas Todd decided to interview the folks in the Sikh community who know where all the bodies are buried: Psychotherapists. Here's what he came up with:

Canadian journalists have been reporting on how Trudeau and his entourage, including Sikh MPs, invited a convicted Sikh terrorist to diplomatic galas in India, and how early videos have been uncovered linking the NDP leader to Sikh activists and militants pressing for a separate homeland in India called Khalistan.
The Canadian news media have, in the midst of the commotion, sometimes been accused by activists of stereotyping the country’s roughly 500,000 Sikhs, “by portraying all Sikhs as violent extremists.” Sensitivity has been exacerbated by U.S. cases, following the 2001 terrorist attacks, where some turban-wearing Sikh Americans have been attacked, even killed, after being mistaken for Muslims…
However, as Sikh activists urge Canadians to find out more about what Sikhs think, there is one source we have not heard from: Professional psychotherapists of Punjabi Sikh origin. Such insiders work on the front lines with the country’s eclectic Sikhs, especially when they’re distressed.

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Do Canadian journalists get the basic religious freedom issues in Trinity Western case?

Do Canadian journalists get the basic religious freedom issues in Trinity Western case?

An evangelical Christian university in British Columbia that has been blocked from starting its own law school got its day in court late last week. What was supposed to be Canada’s first Christian law school has had a lot of delays in getting off the ground because of lawsuits.

Nine judges on Canada’s Supreme Court, meeting in Ottawa, deliberated whether a law school can be accredited because its students must affirm traditional Christian doctrines on sex outside of traditional marriage (thereby excluding sexually active gay students) although, if you read Trinity Western University's covenant carefully, it does not mandate that students be Christian.

The case is known as  Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada and Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia Society.

I wrote about this case a few weeks ago and I thought Canadian media would be full of stories on the hearing -- but that’s not been the case. The Lawyer’s Daily, published by LexisNexis Canada, had the most complete account, which is what I start with here:

Day one of the much-anticipated Trinity Western University (TWU) hearing at the Supreme Court featured tough judicial questions for both sides, but most questions were directed to counsel for the evangelical Christian university which contends British Columbia and Ontario legal regulators shouldn’t have denied it accreditation for its proposed law school.
In the overflowing courtroom jammed with 69 counsel, and dozens of spectators watching on a big screen outside, nine judges probed TWU’s counsel Kevin Boonstra of Kuhn LLP and Robert Staley of Bennett Jones…

For those of you wanting to read this, there is a paywall, but you can get two weeks of it free, which means that all you need do is create a log-on to scan the piece.

Themes explored by the judges, who will also hear from 27 interveners on Dec. 1, included: How broad or narrow is the law societies’ statutory mandate to protect the public interest -- and did the regulators go beyond their jurisdiction by denying accreditation based on TWU’s controversial admissions policy requiring all would-be students, including those who are LGBTQ2, to sign a religious-based code of conduct restricting sexual intimacy to opposite-sex married couples. ...

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Why did Vancouver media pass on covering Franklin Graham's controversial crusade?

Why did Vancouver media pass on covering Franklin Graham's controversial crusade?

Maybe most of you in the lower 48 weren’t following this, but the Rev. Franklin Graham just survived the worst publicity ever for one of his crusades. In this case, it was his March 3-5 “Festival of Hope” in Vancouver, B.C., which I wrote about earlier.

When even Christianity Today goes after Graham, you know the outlook is bad.

As for the secular media, it was like Attila the Hun was showing up, live and in person. Some 327 local churches had combined to host the Graham crusade but you’d never guess that from the coverage he got.

Here's a sample of what was airing the weeks before, courtesy of CTV Vancouver

A famous American evangelist known to denigrate gay people and the Islamic faith is headlining the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope, triggering backlash from some in the religious community.

Talk about a loaded lead sentence.

The three-day festival, which is taking place at Rogers Arena next month, was put together in partnership with local churches and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham's son, Franklin Graham, is scheduled to appear every night.
That's not sitting well with some local faithful, who are speaking out against the younger Graham over his more contentious views.
"Although this event is supported by many local churches in the area, there are many others in the Christian community who are uneasy with having Franklin Graham speak in Vancouver, in light of his outspoken bigotry," reads a petition organized against the event.
The creators of the petition, which has been signed about 500 times, said their goal is to "stand in solidarity with marginalized and minority groups" that Graham has attacked.

The Christianity Today story was only a little less withering.

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Demonizing Franklin Graham: There are strange holes in Vancouver Sun's crusade story

Demonizing Franklin Graham: There are strange holes in Vancouver Sun's crusade story

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, has always been known as somewhat of an iconoclast, but the introduction he got in a recent article in the Vancouver (BC) Sun may as well have put horns atop his head.

The article, which comes with an unattractive photo of a heavenward-gazing Graham with one upraised forefinger cocked like a demented schoolmaster, seems bent on portraying the evangelist as an addled nitwit.

And that’s just the photo. Get a load of the intro:

Metro Vancouver Christians are colliding over the coming crusade of televangelist Franklin Graham, who is known for criticizing homosexuals, Muslims and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Saying that Graham is often “incendiary and intolerant,” some evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics are opposing his participation in the three-day Festival of Hope event at Rogers Arena in early March, 2017, that many of the city’s mega-churches are supporting .
“Rev. Graham is a polarizing figure. … His ungracious and bigoted remarks have the potential to generate serious negative impact on the Christian witness in Vancouver,” says a statement from five prominent evangelical and Catholic leaders (see full letter at bottom).
“We … denounce the frequent incendiary and intolerant statements made by Rev. Graham, which he unapologetically reiterates,” said the letter, signed by Marjeta Bobnar of the Catholic archdiocese, City in Focus president Tom Cooper, Tenth Church pastor Ken Shigematsu, Calvary Baptist pastor Tim Dickau and First Baptist pastor Tim Kuepfer.

Yes, this includes the local Catholic archdiocese with 400,000 adherents, but the other signatories only represent four churches. With 2.1 million residents, there’s probably quite a few other churches in Vancouver.

What’s also intriguing is that the letter was dated June 16. The article ran Aug. 18. Why did it take two months for the Sun to report on this?

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Sharia divorce: Vancouver Sun dives into what Muslim immigrants are really talking about

Sharia divorce: Vancouver Sun dives into what Muslim immigrants are really talking about

It’s really a shame that The Vancouver (BC) Sun hides its religion coverage under the proverbial bushel. Under 10 portals, the newspaper has dozens of drop-downs for all manner of specialties, such as “wine country” under the “life” portal.

I see nothing to help readers find religion news. I even checked under “staff blogs” under the “news” portal, but could not find Doug Todd, the staff writer who covers religion along with migration and diversity.

Folks south of the border appreciate his insight into the religion of “Cascadia,” the area of North America that covers coastal Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. A Seattle blog, ChristandCascadia.com, did a very good interview with him recently about spirituality in this region. 

 Fortunately, I know I can always locate Doug Todd’s columns here and that’s where I found his fascinating take on how divorce under sharia law fares in a western country.

The answer: Not so well. This passage is long, but essential.

“In the event of a separation, the defendant agrees to deliver to the plaintiff the following: I. One volume of the Holy Qur’an; II. One crystal sugar stick; III. One basket of narcissus flowers; IV. 3,000 gold coins.”
                — Delvarani v. Delvarani, B.C. Supreme Court
Lawyer Zahra Jenab often comes face to face with couples embroiled in acidic disputes over a small fortune in gold.
The West Vancouver family lawyer, who was born in Iran and raised in Canada, works frequently with ex-partners wrangling over thousands of gold coins, which may or may not have been given by the husband in a dowry under Islamic Shariah law.

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