A message from President Kuhn about the TWU School of Law
Just prior to Christmas, both the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education announced that they had approved Trinity Western University's proposal for a School of Law. Since then, there has been a flurry of media coverage about the University—some of which has been inaccurate.
Therefore, when considering the issues surrounding Trinity Western’s School of Law, please read the following background statement about Trinity Western University.
TWU opened its doors as a junior college in 1962; I attended from 1970-72. Today, in addition to being one of the University’s proud alumni, I am privileged to serve as its President.
In the years since my student days here, Trinity Western has gained full university status and is now recognized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. It has also added graduate programs and established various professional schools, including Schools of Business, Nursing, Education, Human Kinetics, Graduate Studies, and Arts, Media and Culture.
Despite the fact that TWU’s annual enrolment tops out at just 4,000 students, this small, privately-funded university has excelled both in the academic and sports arenas, with four Canada Research Council Chairs and seven top-tier national university team sport championships.
The annual Globe & Mail Canadian University Report has consistently awarded TWU an A+ in quality of teaching and learning, and has ranked Trinity Western's School of Business as one of the top business schools in British Columbia.
Trinity Western alumni, some 24,000 strong, can be found across Canada and around the world. Some have become Members of Parliament, while others have become business leaders, teachers, nurses, architects, and missionaries.
Some (like me) have gone on to law school. But that necessitated a transfer to another university—so in 2012, we proposed to establish Trinity Western University’s School of Law. In our view, this is a natural next step of expansion in our growing list of professional schools.
While there are Christian law schools in other parts of the world, there are none in Canada. Surely there is room in a pluralistic country for an excellent legal education provided in a Christian context. Trinity Western is uniquely positioned to offer this choice for students.
While stereotypes of Christians abound in Canadian society, and in the media, the reality is that Christian principles have much to add to the study of law. Aside from the fact that much of our modern legal system is based upon Judeo-Christian principles, there remains within our legal system a crying need for a deeper respect for human dignity, including care for the most vulnerable in society. These values define who we are as Christians.
A Christian perspective on legal education seeks to balance the need for both justice and reconciliation; it brings a positive focus to legal issues. That kind of collaborative approach was roundly applauded by legal professionals from across Canada in evaluating the TWU law school proposal.
Despite the broader perspective, critics have tended to focus on one aspect of the University—a clause in our Community Covenant that asks students to respect our belief that marriage is defined, for our religious community, as being between a man and a woman.
That debate has raised the issue of the balance of equal rights of gays and lesbians, and religious freedom. But in reality, Parliament and the courts have already answered that question. Within the legislation that changed the definition of marriage in 2005, it is clear that religious communities, such as TWU, retain the right to define marriage according to their religious precepts.
Further, the Supreme Court of Canada came to the same conclusion when it ruled in favour of Trinity Western University on the same issue in 2001. And in the Reference re Same-Sex Marriage in 2005, the court again affirmed the need for protection of religious freedom.
It should be noted that the Government of British Columbia legislatively affirmed the right for our University to observe and uphold our religious beliefs, as Trinity Western is legally recognized as a religious community.
I believe that, as a community dedicated to both academic freedom and religious freedom, love and respect for all humanity has been—and will remain—one of our greatest strengths. For it has enabled us to unify our diverse community of students, faculty, and staff. It is a community that thrives amid the natural tension between faith and reason, all the while seeking to live out the Christian values that both guide, and give meaning to, our lives.
The essence of Christian values is found in Jesus Christ, who taught us to demonstrate love and respect for all people at all times, regardless of their faith, the colour of their skin, or their sexual orientation. And it's those very same values that will guide us in the creation of our new, faith-based, educationally-excellent law school.
— Robert G. Kuhn, President, Trinity Western University