There is a world-wide philosophical struggle involving ‘discrimination’ and the right of religious freedom of conscience with consequences for Australia.
Can a company that provides hosts for communion be ordered to sell to a Satan worship organisation who will defile those hosts?
If a Christian photographer who wants nothing to do with snapping the goings on in a bathhouse or the guests at a gay wedding can be prosecuted, why not?
What is the position however where religious freedom is not enshrined constitutionally? Canada provides a clue for Australia.
On the 24th of April last, the law society of Ontario, Canada voted against admission as a lawyer any graduates of Trinity Western University.
For no other reason that the University’s community covenant, which students and teachers voluntarily sign upon admission or hiring, reserves sexual intimacy for themselves in heterosexual marriage. The law society do not want such people practicing law no matter how high their legal qualifications are.
Nova Scotia Law Society are the same. But they graciously allowed those qualified to be allowed to practice unless the University either change its covenant or permit students to opt out – which they can – the covenant is voluntary anyway.
In British Columbia, on the 11th of April the Law Society there voted to admit TWU graduates to the bar, but momentum is building for the law society to reverse that decision in a special meeting on June 10th.
Trinity Western are not going to take this sort of thing lying down. Admission as a lawyer should have nothing to do with the religious beliefs. Are Muslims or Catholics next? So they have just launched lawsuits against the law societies of Ontario and Nova Scotia, rightly alleging that they failed to stick to the law and follow an earlier Supreme Court decision that had already approved TWU’s covenant.
That 2001 decision, Trinity Western University v. BC College of Teachers, is still good law, but the law societies believe that there has been a shift in public opinion on gay marriage and the time might be now to overturn the earlier decision.
They might well right. With same-sex marriage legalised, the public debate is now strongly weighed against Christians who believe in traditional marriage, and they face rapidly mounting charges of unreasonable intolerance. During the April 11th debate of the British Columbia law society the argument ran that requiring gay students to save it all for marriage with a person of the opposite sex was oppressive and discriminatory.
The opposite view was “The right to assemble and the right to freely and openly practice religious belief…is a fundamental right in this country that is to be jealously guarded…a response that sidesteps this fundamental Canadian freedom in order to either punish TWU for its value system or force it to replace it…would risk undermining freedom of religion for all and…would be a dangerous over-extension of institutional power.”
If the Supreme Court decides against TWU, then other professional bodies will not stay far behind Ontario and Nova Scotia in excluding the graduates of TWU. Teachers already tried to do this in 2001, and if TWU loses they will try again – then will come the dentists and doctors and pharmacists.
There is no reason why the position in Australia should be different.
Eventually, admission to a professional body of any kind will require an undertaking that the applicant will keep his religious opinions to himself.
There will be no media outcry, no defending of the right of free speech, until journalists catch up with the idea that the same rule will apply to them.