No gays ’llowed in

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A few years ago, two Toronto men sat in a courtroom defending their charter right to religious freedom. Peter Styrsky and Shahrooz Kharaghani were reverends in the Church of the Universe.

Their crime? Trafficking marijuana. They argued that smoking dope was part of the church’s sacrament. The problem is, they were selling it to the laity, including two police officers posing as members of the flock.

The judge ruled against them. Allowing such behaviour would effectively legalize marijuana and provoke a flood of similar claims.

The case illustrates the difficulty in deciding what constitutes freedom of religion. You can claim something is a sacrament, but not if it can be shown to be a tactic to discriminate or flout the law.

Drawing that line is a challenge.

On Wednesday, the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society said its benchers have deferred making a decision on whether to permit graduates of a proposed law school in Langley, B.C., to practise law here. Trinity Western University insists that its students vow to only engage in marital sex between a man and a woman — no gays or fornicators allowed.

Three other provinces have already dealt with the issue.  Ontario won’t accept the graduates. Nova Scotia only would if the discriminatory policy was dropped. British Columbia’s law society voted to accept them, but then reversed that decision in a vote Tuesday. Since the Supreme Court of Canada had already ruled in favour of TWU in a previous B.C. case, it’s not clear whether the B.C. law society will follow members’ wishes.

Religion is an intangible thing, and that’s certainly the case with Christianity. There are extreme homophobic sects, like the Westboro Baptist Church in the U.S., and those that shun modern technology or modern medicine. Then there are the vast majority of Christians who have managed to muster a reasonable measure of balance and tolerance in this pluralistic society.

To get some perspective on discrimination in this country, it’s instructive to look at recent Statistics Canada data.

In 2011, the most common motivation for hate crimes was race, followed by religion, then sexual orientation. That seems to indicate that homophobic Christians, for example, need protection more than gays do.

But hate crime is broadly defined. The most common category is mischief, accounting for half of all cases. In other words, every time someone scrawls something offensive on the side of a church or synagogue, the tally rises.

Now look at the more violent aspects of hate crime.

In 2010 and 2011, about 70 per cent of violent hate crimes, including assault, were motivated by sexual orientation. Religion? About 20 per cent.

Clearly, there’s more at stake for the otherwise oriented than there is for those who choose to loudly condemn them as sinners. Such sentiments are echoes of a primitive and, to some, un-Christian soul.

Can law societies keep TWU students from practising? That remains to be seen. The law is blind, and usually doesn’t take everyday morals into account. It’s expected that those who practise law will put their personal beliefs aside. If the law did rule according to common morals, however, it’s safe to say that archaic, close-minded institutions like TWU would be ruled out of existence.

Organizations: Trinity Western University, Supreme Court of Canada, Westboro Baptist Church Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Langley, Ontario Nova Scotia British Columbia U.S.

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  • Doug Smith
    June 16, 2014 - 21:09

    Why does Canadian law allow Trinity Western University to discriminate based on sexual behaviour that is perfectly legal? Isn’t any province that allows graduates of Trinity Western University to practice in that particular province promoting discrimination? Why Trinity so up tight about normal legal sexual behaviour ? Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

  • Colin Burke
    June 16, 2014 - 07:56

    A really principled objection to TWU's policy would be the objection that it requires people to forgo a legal right in order to study there. People have at least as much legal right to fornicate as to sodomize each other. TWU therefore is not picking on gays, but rather equating sodomy with "natural" fornication, which seems to me a concession that a really archaic and close-minded institution might not be ready to make. So why is there no fuss about TWU's requiring its students to forgo fornication? Are those making the fuss therefore tacitly admitting that there's something somewhat different about what gays do together. If TWU allowed fornication but forbad sodomy, now that would be discriminating against gays. As it is, those making the great fuss are claiming that one legal right is more important than another, while law societies ought to be emphasizing that all citizens are equal before the law, as TWU's policy in fact regards TWU's gay and straight students.

  • Colin Burke
    June 16, 2014 - 07:13

    It would be a pretty safe bet that "archaic, close-minded institutions like TWU" understand the position of this editorial's author better than he understands theirs, or at least that they would if he stated his as clearly as they can theirs.

  • Brian Kelly
    June 14, 2014 - 04:30

    In Response to James, apparently a.k.a Warped. The "Gateway Myth" has been proven false over and over again. Correlation doesn't equal causation. If you really want to protect families from a drug proven to destroy lives and families, then you should be up in arms, protesting the legality of booze. Alcohol is the number one cause for traffic fatalities and domestic violence by a huge landslide. More so than all other drugs, combined. Why doesn't that concern you even more? dead

  • _Brian_Kelly_
    June 14, 2014 - 04:26

    In Response to James, apparently a.k.a Warped. The "Gateway Myth" has been proven false over and over again. Correlation doesn't equal causation. If you really want to protect families from a drug proven to destroy lives and families, then you should be up in arms, protesting the legality of booze. Alcohol is the number one cause for traffic fatalities and domestic violence by a huge landslide. More so than all other drugs, combined. Why doesn't that concern you even more? "Marijuana Is Gateway Drug" Theory Debunked, Again http://www.opposingviews.com/i/marijuana-is-gateway-drug-theory-debunked-again Marijuana a "Gateway" Drug? Scientists Call Theory Half-Baked http://www.cbsnews.com/news/marijuana-a-gateway-drug-scientists-call-theory-half-baked/ Marijuana as a Gateway Drug: The Myth That Will Not Die http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/29/marijuna-as-a-gateway-drug-the-myth-that-will-not-die/#ixzz2s5nDwiDS Seven Studies That Debunk the Gateway Myth http://inorml.com/blog/2012/11/25/seven-studies-that-debunk-the-gateway-myth/

  • Too Funny
    June 13, 2014 - 08:35

    Lawyers making judgements on morality - that's funny.

  • Brian Kelly
    June 13, 2014 - 04:21

    The "War on Marijuana" has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful "War on Drugs" that has cost our country over a trillion dollars. Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending "War on Marijuana", lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It's a no brainer. The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason? Marijuana is much safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink? Let's end this hypocrisy now! The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less "crimes" because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune. Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that's approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it! Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

    • Warped.
      June 13, 2014 - 09:09

      You think that marijuana smoking is a victim less crime? You can deny it all you like, but marijuana is a gateway drug. It alone destroys bodies and minds, especially those of developing children and teens. It has been shown that it causes psychosis in teens. Legalizing destructive behaviour like drug abuse and prostitution doesn't improve the life of anyone, although drug dealers and pimps would profit financially from it. You can delude yourself all you like, but you can't show that it does.

    • James
      June 13, 2014 - 09:43

      You think that drinking alcohol is a victim less crime? You can deny it all you like, but alcohol is a gateway drug. It alone destroys bodies and minds, especially those of developing children and teens. It has been shown that it causes psychosis in teens. Legalizing destructive behaviour like drinking alcohol and bartending doesn't improve the life of anyone, although bar owners and the province would profit financially from it. You can delude yourself all you like, but you can't show that it does

    • THCocracy
      June 13, 2014 - 10:16

      Warped.: Replace drug dealer&ProfitPimp with Pharma&NLC, and marihuana with spirits, and the temperance movement is rejuvenated! We all know it does, your point, warped? Or are you too stoned by my perfect analogy? How much $ goes back into the community? Who gets hurt? Effexor? Oxy? Read book, your brain exists for more than just medical research by pharmafad. These gateway drugs are as old as gods goat's poop.