“Homophobia on the Syllabus”

G. Elijah Dann shared a link on the Canadian Atheist Facebook page to his Huffington Post article, “Trinity Western University Put[s] Homophobia on the Syllabus.”

Dann starts by discussing Bill Maher’s comment on Real Time with Bill Maher:

“There are 80 countries with anti-gay laws punishable by death in about 10 Muslim countries. India, not a Muslim country … just passed a harsh anti-gay law.” Maher summed it up: “This is something the world has a long way to go to get over.”

Dann “realized Maher could’ve added one more country to the list where the ‘getting over it’ has some way to go: Canada” because “negative attitudes towards homosexuality are emanating from a Christian institution: Trinity Western University.”

The article Dann references is almost a year old and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada “granted TWU preliminary approval of its proposed law school program” in December 2013.  However, for Dann

The most interesting part of TWU’s covenant, however, is the voluntary, obligatory commitment to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” [Emphasis Dann]

Dann treats us to a “Spoiler Alert” about “marriage throughout time” and talks about the kind of religious discourse and political language and “the absence of details” in the discussion about TWU and its covenant that would make George Orwell grimace.

For Dann, “the language of morality” is “shameful”:

Especially in Canada. And abundantly so for a law school bristling to be taken seriously.

Members of UBC law school, lawyers and legal experts in Nova Scotia and the Faculty Council at Osgoode Hall Law School (York University) agree.

11 thoughts on ““Homophobia on the Syllabus”

  1. I’m certainly no fan of Trinity Western University, but I’m not all that impressed with G. Elijah Dann either. Linking Russia to countries that have explicit laws against homosexual acts is a stretch, and linking Canada to those countries because of one university’s puritanical policies is ridiculous. Several other points in his article seem equally ill-judged.

    The whole idea of a religious law school, though, is a bit strange. Being a religious lawyer (or law student) must entail the same kind of ironclad compartmentalisation as being a religious scientist or philosopher. Legal training involves learning to evaluate arguments based on their internal logic and empirical support, and religious arguments tend not to survive that kind of scrutiny.

    • The ‘State’ doesn’t have to have an outright ban on homosexuality for there to be devastating effects. Putin’s newest law against homosexual ‘propaganda’ is giving the ignorant and the hate-filled permission to strike out against gays with at times deadly consequences. It’s not a stretch, as you suggest, when the end result is the same.

      If it was just one university we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The fact is over 40 religious universities and colleges operate in Canada, all of which have policies that fly in the face of our Charter. Not only do they practice these discriminatory policies, they do so while being funded by Canadians through direct funding or bursaries and grants. Our current Prime Minister has escalated direct funding to all religious schools, but more so to Christian schools in order to appease his bigoted right-wing base of supporters.

      The hypocrisy of our current federal government who with one breath denounce Uganda and with the next support institutionalized bigotry in our own country,is beyond ‘ridiculous’. It’s deadly.

      • Putin’s newest law against homosexual ‘propaganda’ is giving the ignorant and the hate-filled permission to strike out against gays with at times deadly consequences.

        That’s true, although the “permission” is vague, implicit and presumably limited in scope. However, laws against gay sex give equivalent “permission” and criminalise sexually active gay people no matter how discreet they’re being. Surely that’s a damn sight worse than just banning “propaganda”.

        The fact is over 40 religious universities and colleges operate in Canada, all of which have policies that fly in the face of our Charter.

        All the current fuss, though, seems to be about Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. Dann’s article, which focusses exclusively on TWU (apart from references to unspecified “homophobic institutions” and “conservative institutions”) is a case in point. Nevertheless, I’d be curious to know more about these 40+ religious institutes of higher learning and their policies, if you can direct me to a good source. There might be a blog post in there somewhere.

        The hypocrisy of our current federal government who with one breath denounce Uganda and with the next support institutionalized bigotry in our own country,is beyond ‘ridiculous’. It’s deadly.

        Deadly? Roughly how many people do you think are going to literally die over, say, the next ten years as a result of Canadian government funding of religious schools?

        Also, it’s not hypocritical to support a mild and limited form of something while denouncing more extreme forms of that same thing. One can vote for the NDP while denouncing full-blown Marxism, or favour laws against bullfighting and cockfighting while denouncing attacks on scientists who use animals in medical research.

        • That’s true, although the “permission” is vague, implicit and presumably limited in scope. However, laws against gay sex give equivalent “permission” and criminalise sexually active gay people no matter how discreet they’re being. Surely that’s a damn sight worse than just banning “propaganda”.

          Something being “a damned sight worse” than something else is a very dangerous distinction to start to want to make.

          It certainly can’t be anyone’s reliable fallback mode of discourse, since for example in many cases it makes no sense whatsoever to distinguish laws leading explicitly to violence vs implicitly so.

          Do I have to spell out what kind of imbalance a ban on gay “propaganda” without a concomitant ban on anti-gay “propaganda” will lead to?

          It’s an extremely poor form of argument.

          • So if Russia passes a law against gay sex next week, you won’t consider the situation there to have worsened?

          • Yes, and if Russia passed a law next week requiring all male gays to be castrated, it will have worsened even more.

            It’s already bad enough.

        • How much worse must it get for homosexuals living in Russia for you to find the situation abhorrent? Current stats show that some 75% of the general public feel that homosexuality should not be accepted by society and 5% of the population actually think that gays need to be ‘liquidated’. State sponsored hatred will only make those numbers move up.

          Your Canadian tax dollars at work:

          – $4.2 Million to the Newman Theological College
          – $3.2 million to Youth for Christ in Winnipeg
          – $192,000 to the world of Truth Christian Center
          – $495,600 to Wycliffe Bible Translators
          – $357,146 to Chakam School of the Bible Inc.
          – $198,951 to National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith International Centre of Canada
          – $84,110 to Eastside Church of God
          – $2.9 million to Redeemer University College
          – $2.614 million to Trinity Western University
          – $1,0 million to Global Kingdom Ministries Community Center, Toronto
          – $544,813 to Crossroads Christian Communications.

          There are more to be found and the total reaches $20 million plus and it is growing with Harper’s thirst for vote buying.

          Because religious mores are so ingrained in Canadian society STILL, I’d be willing to bet that at least one of the perpetrators of these crimes had attitudes shaped by religious dogma, either directly or indirectly. It’s weird to me that I’m asking this but, wouldn’t one death be one death too many?
          From Wikipedia:
          =Kenneth Zeller, a gay man in Toronto, Ontario who was employed as a schoolteacher, was murdered by five young offenders in High Park in 1985. The incident spurred the Toronto District School Board to implement a program to combat anti-gay discrimination and violence — culminating in the creation of the Triangle Program, Canada’s first alternative school program for at-risk LGBT youth, in 1995.[6]
          On March 19, 1989, Joe Rose, a young gay activist in Montreal, was stabbed to death by a gang of teenagers who targeted him for having pink hair. The incident later inspired educator Michael Whatling, who had been a classmate of Rose’s at the time of his death, to publish A Vigil for Joe Rose, an exploration of the struggles faced by LGBT students.[7]
          On August 21, 1989, Alain Brosseau, a straight man in Ottawa, was attacked by a gang of teenagers who wrongly assumed him to be gay, while walking home from his job at the Château Laurier.[8] The attackers chased him through Major’s Hill Park to the Alexandra Bridge, and then threw him off the bridge resulting in his death.[8] This resulted in a gay and lesbian community outcry and eventually led to the formation of the Ottawa Police Service’s GLBT Liaison Committee two years later.[8]
          Aaron Webster, a gay man in Vancouver, British Columbia, was beaten to death with baseball bats and pool cues on November 17, 2001 in a part of Stanley Park known for cruising. Ryan Cran, along with two unidentified youths, was convicted of manslaughter in Webster’s death. Cran was paroled in February 2009 after serving four years of a six-year sentence.[9]
          Jordan Smith, 27, of White Rock, British Columbia, was brutally assaulted on September 27, 2008 by 20-year-old Michael Kandola of Vancouver. Smith was holding hands with another male while walking in Vancouver’s Davie Village, an area frequented by GLBTQ individuals, when Kandola started following the pair with four to five of his friends and began shouting anti-gay obscenities towards the gay pair. Kandola confronted the two and punched Smith on the side of his head, knocking him unconscious. Smith required surgery for his injuries. Kandola was charged with assault causing bodily harm, and police sought to invoke Canadian hate-crime legislation against Kandola. A Facebook group with over 4000 members was established petitioning for a minimum life imprisonment sentence for Kandola.[10] On April 30, 2010, the assault was deemed by the B.C. Supreme Court to be a hate crime and Kandola was sentenced to 17 months in jail.[11]
          Anji Dimitriou and Jane Currie were physically assaulted on November 3, 2008 at an Oshawa, Ontario public school while waiting to pick up their children. Mark Scott, the attacker, punched both women in the face, referring to them as “men”, “fucking dyke bitches” and spit in Dimitriou’s face. He was in court in January 2009, for two counts of assault causing bodily harm.[12][13] However, the incident was prosecuted as a simple assault and not as a hate crime, as Scott neither advocated genocide nor incited anyone else to join in the attack.[14]
          On March 13, 2009, Shawn Woodward was charged with aggravated assault after physically attacking 62-year-old Ritchie Dowrey in Vancouver’s Fountainhead Pub, allegedly because “He’s a faggot. He deserved it.”[15] Dowrey had briefly bumped into Woodward’s shoulder, which the heterosexual Woodward characterized during his trial as a predatory sexual advance.[16] Although Dowrey survived the assault, he suffered serious and permanent brain damage, and was still in an intensive care facility when Woodward was found guilty in August 2010.[16] Justice Jocelyn Palmer rejected the allegation that Dowrey had groped Woodward, ultimately finding that “[Woodward’s] intention was to deny, deflect and dissemble. He fabricated this story to justify his outrageous assault.”[16]
          On October 18, 2010, the home of a gay couple in Little Pond, Prince Edward Island was firebombed.[17] Both men escaped the fire unharmed, but their home was destroyed. In late October and November, a series of rallies and fundraising concerts was held in both Little Pond and Charlottetown to support the couple and to oppose homophobic violence.[18]
          On April 17, 2012, Halifax gay activist Raymond Taavel was beaten to death outside Menz & Mollyz, a gay bar on the city’s Gottingen Street, by Andre Denny, a paranoid schizophrenic on an unsupervised leave from a nearby mental hospital, after attempting to break up a fight between Denny and another man.[19] Taavel was a former chair of the city’s gay pride festival and a former editor at the LGBT magazine Wayves and the spiritual magazine Shambhala Sun.[19] Over 1,000 people attended a vigil in Taavel’s memory later the same evening, which included performances by poet Tanya Davis, actor and writer Stewart Legere and singer-songwriters Rose Cousins and Ria Mae.[20] Although there were unconfirmed allegations that Denny used anti-gay slurs while attacking Taavel,[21] to date media and the police have not asserted that the case clearly constituted a hate crime, generally attributing the attack to Denny’s mental illness rather than to a specifically anti-gay bias.[21] Ironically, Taavel had previously survived a more clearly anti-gay physical attack, which he wrote about in Wayves in May 2010.[22]
          On October 12, 2013 Scott Jones, a gay resident of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, is stabbed by a knife-wielding man after leaving the Acro Lounge.[23] He is left paraplegic by the attack.[23]

          To your last point, I’ve never heard of ‘mild’ homophobia.

          • How much worse must it get for homosexuals living in Russia for you to find the situation abhorrent?

            Surely abhorrence is a sliding scale, for those who are prone to abhorrence in the first place. To me the term implies a combination of shock, outrage and urgency that just doesn’t have a prominent place in my emotional palette. From what I’ve read, the situation for homosexuals in Russia is fairly parlous, but I can easily think of ways in which it could be much worse (so can Bubba, as you’ll see from his latest comment). In my opinion the Russian government is being misguided and sort of nasty about the whole thing, but I don’t have (and don’t want) a say in how in Russia governs itself.

            There are more to be found and the total reaches $20 million plus and it is growing with Harper’s thirst for vote buying.

            Given the size of government budgets these days, I’m not actually sure that $20 million is all that impressive. I agree that the money would be much better spent on other things, of course.

            It’s weird to me that I’m asking this but, wouldn’t one death be one death too many?

            Sure, but it would be just one death too many. I’m certain the annual casualty rate from gay bashing is a lot higher in Russia and in many African countries than it is in Canada. So again, there are large differences of degree that make Dann’s comparisons absurd.

            To your last point, I’ve never heard of ‘mild’ homophobia.

            Really? I think it’s actually common, at least among older Canadians. For example, there are plenty of people who vaguely disapprove of homosexuality but would never hurt or even openly insult a person just for being homosexual. Even if you don’t think that’s “mild”, it’s certainly a lot milder than the homophobia that figured in the various cases you listed.

          • And the sliding scale of abhorrence is itself a sliding scale in its own right, without the need to be able to think up much worse case scenarios. Surely, a muzzle on pro-gay publication and visible displays (again without a protectively balancing ban on anti-gay publications/displays) has tipped over into the sliding scale associated to very severe attacks on human rights peppered with acts of violence. At least for most.

            But as I understand it, this is really a discussion we’re having here, broadly speaking, about whether one country, actively engaged in criticism of another country’s human rights conditions, should have its own human rights circumstances examined/criticised in turn; and possibly also about, in a more narrow context, who is better positioned to give their opinions on connections and linkages, and make statistically informed assertions, as opposed to others who might not be in a position to say a damned thing worth a pile of mud.

    • “[L]inking Canada to those countries because of one university’s puritanical policies is ridiculous.”

      Agreed. It reminds me of when I hear the claim that Canada has no business criticizing countries where women are forced to walk around in tents and are stoned to death for adultery because women in Canada make 65 cents on the dollar compared to a man. Lets keep things in perspective. TWU is an embarrassment in a modern civilized country but is not in any way comparable to laws against homosexuality.

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