TORONTO, ON February 3, 2010 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today commented on news that the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has claimed Trinity Western University of Langley BC falls below an accepted standard of academic freedom because it requires faculty to sign a statement of Christian faith as a condition of employment. The CAUT has also placed the school on a list of “institutions found to have imposed a requirement of a commitment to a particular ideology or statement as condition of employment.”
Trinity Western (TWU) is the first school to be placed on this list, but several more are said to be under “investigation” by the CAUT, a national umbrella group of faculty associations. According to officials at TWU, there were no interviews with them during in the investigation, and it was not in response to any complaint. Rather, e-mails were sent by CAUT to faculty at other B.C. schools asking if they had ever had problems with TWU. The school was chartered by the BC government in 1969 as a Christian post-secondary institution. It became an accredited university in 1985.
“To us, this is a fairly straightforward attempt to find problems with universities that take their religious heritage seriously, in an attempt to further marginalize religion in academic life” said Phil Horgan, president of CCRL. “Both sides appear to agree that there had been no complaint of infringement of academic freedom, or overall quality of the staff and their work. So why send out e-mails to academics looking for problems that would surely be well known if they existed?”
Most of Canada’s universities were established by Churches and religious orders, usually as seminaries that included liberal arts education open to non-clergy candidates. Many would now be better described as having a religious history than as actively affiliated with a Church. Nevertheless, theology schools are still part of most universities, especially the older ones. There is room in the academic landscape for all shades of religious affiliation. Most of the League’s founders were university professors, and many continue to be found among our membership.
In the mid-90s, the BC College of Teachers tried to challenge Trinity Western’s right to train teachers for the public school system, claiming that their beliefs could lead to discrimination against homosexual students. But the Supreme Court of Canada did not agree, ruling in 2001 that the graduates could be judged only on their behaviour in the classroom.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifies that freedom of religion is a basic right of all Canadians. Given the key role that universities play in research and education of all kinds, it is important that academics and administrators recognize the role faith has historically played and continues to play in inspiring people to learn and to contribute to society. Unfortunately that spirit appears to be absent in this case.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org