One more reason to be jealous of how amazing Canada is! As usual, the country is setting examples of how to progress towards an inclusive society. The supreme court denied accreditation to a Trinity Western University, a Christian Law School that sought to ban gay sex and extra-marital affairs.
The issues between religion and LGBTQ+ have always been conflicting. Many voices of LGBTQ+, try to track the act of acceptance and inclusivity of LGBTQ+ within religious boundaries. This could be because of the rigidity of religion and its ephemerality. Proving that something has been around forever, adds weight to the idea.
Thus, the entire exchange between the SC and the University was closely followed by religious freedom and gay rights advocates. The Supreme Court decided to place the protection of LGBT students and faculty from discrimination before religious freedom. The ruling was majoritarian and had a few opposing justices.
Understanding LGBTQ+ rights as Human rights
Are LGBTQ+ rights human rights? Yes, they are. The freedom to have sex and identify as a certain gender (including gender fluidity) is a basic human right. This affects how an individual is addressed in society and provides rights to be treated equally.
Paul Schabas, the law society’s treasurer summed up the arguments of the ruling side. He wrote that they are particularly pleased that the court recognized the statutory mandate to uphold the public interest. And that it includes promoting a diverse bar. Most importantly, the ruling ensures that there are no inequitable barriers to those seeking access to the legal profession.
The LGBTQ+ has undergone several instances of abuse, and violence due to their preferences. And this is the reason for the LGBTQ+ to need protection and safety rules and not specifically a special consideration. There is a need for equity.
Looking back at the case, CAUT’s executive director, David Robison sums up why the decision is a progressive step. “The majority of the Supreme Court accepted that there is a link between legal education and equality, diversity, and the competence of the legal profession,”.
Does religion restrict diversity? Is the prescriptive nature of religion create a conflict of being?
Is there really a loss of religious freedom?
Even though this is a victory for the LGBTQ+, the loss of religious freedom is pretty important too. Let us look at the perspective of the University. The Christian law college said “engaging in sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” Which is a concern that most religions share.
The diversity of relationships clearly does not have space within religion. Apart from heterosexuality and monogamy, there are no religious laws that govern other relationships in most religions. The students and faculty had to promise not to have extra-marital or gay sex.
So what is religious freedom? And does it create a barrier to LGBTQ+?
Simply put, religious freedom can be understood as the right to choose a religion (or no religion) without interference by the government. The separation of the State and the Church which we have learned was done a few decades ago. I am sure you can now place the intersection of LGBTQ+ rights, religious freedom, and the Supreme Court’s ruling.
This intersection gives rise to some form of loss depending on the leaning. Here is the argument by religious freedom advocates. “It interferes with that community’s expression of religious belief through the practice of creating and adhering to a biblically grounded covenant,” said the two dissenting justices.
Although, they also agreed that the ruling is in public interest. And the accommodation of difference does not undermine the beliefs of the Liberal and Pluralist Society.
What do we learn from this? We learn that in a conflict between the prescriptive faith and self-identification and being, one has to trump the other. This does not mean disrespect to religion. It only points out the lack of inclusion and freedom of sexual and gender identity within it. The inability to be both, a religious being and LGBTQ+ is a religion based barrier. LGBTQ+ does not prohibit someone from being religious. There is a clear requirement for the accommodation of difference. Without which, religion leans towards demarcating society. Instead of a community which includes and supports harmonious diversity within it.
The Question still Remains
How do other countries, those with extremely strict religious laws tackle these problems? If the church and the state are not separated, the voice of the LGBTQ+ drowns. If the government begins to include members of the community as a part of the government, the conversation will become easier. It will also help ease the familiarity of LGBTQ+ issues.