17 April 2013

South of the Border For Me

I've been asked to be part of panel discussing "The Religiously-Affiliated Law School and the Legal Academy" at the 2013 meeting of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) in August. The description accompanying the program fleshes out our topics:
This discussion group focuses on two sets of questions regarding the place of the religiously-affiliated institution in the legal academy. First, what challenges confront all religiously-affiliated institutions in the legal academy? Second, what differences exist among religiously-affiliated institutions regarding means used to implement religious mission statements?
Were we meeting in Canada and in the world according to Elaine Craig our discussion would be short. Indeed, it wouldn't take place at all. In her about-to-be-published piece The Case for the Federation of Law Societies Rejecting Trinity Western University's Proposed Law Degree Program (abstract here), Professor Craig thumps the tub against even permitting a Canadian Christian university from offering a degree in law. And if Trinity Western University is somehow allowed to offer the LL.B., its graduates should certainly not be allowed to practice law.

Why such vitriol? By requiring its students and faculty to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman," TWU is engaging in the rankest form of discrimination against gays and lesbians. (And, although Professor Craig for some reason doesn't mention it, against heterosexual fornicators as well.) And not only would TWU discriminate against certain behaviors that Professor Craig valorizes, its Christian mission means it cannot have academic freedom (at least not the freedom to disagree with Professor Craig). Finally, its graduates are conclusively presumed to be unable to engage in the ethical practice of law because they would have learned the law in the context of the Christian faith, which, as everyone knows (or at least everyone Professor Craig knows) is incompatible with (a certain take on) moral reasoning.

I'm not the one to engage in a point-by-point rebuttal of Professor Craig's tendentious arguments. For that I'll refer you to a short piece by Niel Foster (download here). I'm more interested in pointing to the logical conclusion of the ideology of secularism. The Christian faith is robustly secular; the New Testament is replete with references to "this age" and "the age to come." Secularism has taken this valid insight into the the way of God with the world, stripped it of its foundation in Christian doctrine, and turned into an unveiled attack on any form of life and thought that doesn't find the apex of ethics in maximal sexual autonomy. Never mind that autonomy is meaningless without a matrix of (human) nature; all must be done to strangle at birth any form of social practice that dares suggest that there is a nature to human life and living. (And anyone who suggests that such a nature exists in relationship to God should not be tolerated in polite company.)

All of which makes me thankful that I live in a nation that continues to recognize the legitimacy of a pluriform society. After a few initial bouts of anxiety, the American Bar Association now clearly understands that diversity includes institutional diversity, which provides ample space for religiously-affiliated law school south of the 49th parallel.

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