Home/Rod Dreher/In Canada & Ireland, The Religious Are Routed

In Canada & Ireland, The Religious Are Routed

A flag of conquest (Marc Bruxelle/Shutterstock)

It is the end of the road for the law school at Trinity Western University, an Evangelical college in British Columbia:

The Supreme Court has upheld the right of provincial law societies to reject the graduates of a proposed Christian law school over its requirement that students abstain from sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

In a highly anticipated contest between religious freedom and equality, most of the court said the limit on religious freedom was a minor one – well short of “forced apostasy,” as five of the judges put it. By comparison, the effects on equality, if the school had been accredited, would have been large enough to threaten the integrity of the legal system, the judges said.

The court had been asked whether the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario were within their rights when they voted not to give licences to graduates of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school at its campus in Langley, B.C. In a pair of 7-2 rulings, the court said they were.

“Limiting access to membership in the legal profession on the basis of personal characteristics, unrelated to merit, is inherently inimical to the integrity of the legal profession,” five of the seven judges in the majority wrote.

Trinity would not deny access to gay students. It would only deny access to those who would not sign a pledge to remain celibate outside of heterosexual marriage — a pledge that also affected single heterosexuals. And, Canada has many law schools that have no such standard. Trinity was by no means the only gateway to access to the legal profession. This court ruling is nothing but an elaborate rationalization for driving orthodox Christians out of whatever small corner of the public square they are still allowed to inhabit in Canadian life.

In The Benedict Option, I mentioned the Trinity Western case as a bellwether for religious liberty in Canada. Now the future is clear. God help the orthodox Canadian Christians.

Meanwhile, in enlightened liberal Ireland:

Ireland’s Taoiseach [prime minister] has said that hospitals with a Catholic ethos will be required to perform abortions after new legislation comes into effect.

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that individual medics and healthcare workers will be able to opt out but that this opt-out will not extend to publicly funded hospitals.

Two of Dublin’s biggest hospitals are owned by religious orders. The St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, which includes St Vincent’s University Hospital, is owned by the Sisters of Charity, while the Sisters of Mary own the Mater Hospital.

Wesley J. Smith says that doctors and medical facilities in many countries may soon be compelled to perform abortion, euthanasia, sex changes, and other controversial procedures:

Medical conscience” looks to become one of the most contentious civil-rights issues of the current era as secularists impose their values on the entire health-care system by transforming “mere legality” (my term) of controversial procedures into a positive right to receive them. Once “equitable and equal access” becomes legally guaranteed, the government must ensure accessibility to everyone.

That means coercing heterodox religiously oriented institutions and individual practitioners to violate their own consciences as the oppressive price of medical licensing.

This is not only authoritarian — shattering the guarantees of religious liberty in virtually all existing human-rights accords — but could cause a significant brain drain if dissenting doctors, nurses, and others decide to retire, find other areas of endeavor, or if brilliant young would-be doctors and nurses decide to pursue non-medical careers rather than be compelled to violate their religious beliefs.

I remind you of this passage from The Benedict Option:

Christian students and their parents must take this into careful consideration when deciding on a field of study in college and professional school. A nationally prominent physician who is also a devout Christian tells me he discourages his children from following in his footsteps. Doctors now and in the near future will be dealing with issues related to sex, sexuality, and gender identity but also to abortion and euthanasia. “Patient autonomy” and nondiscrimination are the principles that trump all conscience considerations, and physicians are expected to fall in line.

“If they make compliance a matter of licensure, there will be nowhere to hide,” said this physician. “And then what do you do if you’re three hundred thousand dollars in debt from medical school, and have a family with three kids and a sick parent? Tough call, because there aren’t too many parishes or church communities who would jump in and help.”

Look, things aren’t yet so bad in America, for either doctors or lawyers. We have to fight as hard as we can to prevent this from happening here. But we also have to prepare for the very real possibility, even the likelihood, that we will lose. A lot of Benedict Option critics insist on this false binary: that even to think about the prospect of losing is to surrender in advance. That is silly, and dangerously so. We are de-Christianizing. A country where people are no longer religious is a country where people no longer value religious liberty.

The folks at Trinity Western fought hard, all the way to the highest court in their land — and they lost, decisively. The pro-lifers in Ireland fought hard in a national referendum — and the lost, decisively.

Now what?

The Benedict Option is for “now what?”

(A reminder to readers: I am traveling now, and through next week. Posting will be lighter, and comments will take longer to be approved. Steady on, despite it all.)


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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