The Faith Today Interview With
Bob Kuhn, President of Trinity
f T: Were you surprised at the outcry from
the law deans?
BK: The answer is yes and no. I’m surprised
it’s become the issue it has. My surprise is
really the degree to which the opposition
is grounding its positions on an ideology,
as opposed to taking into account some
of the legal and logical
f T: Listening to some
of the comments
made by the opposing side, I’m thinking
it must be frustrating
to be labelled the way you and TWU seem
to be. How do you deal with it personally?
BK: It’s been challenging at times because
of the nature of it being a personal attack,
in part. Certainly some of the commentary
has been to use the language of the day – “
intolerant” and worse. I’ve received personal
threats and the like. I would characterize it as
hate mail. The challenge is you can’t respond
in sound bites and make it a meaningful discussion point.
Those people who find it easy to respond with a sound bite mentality tend
to gather the attention of others, but don’t
tend to generate much in the way of reasoned dialogue. Much of our opposition is
not interested in reasoned dialogue. They
are interested in ideological purity.
f T: You’ve been publicly labelled homo-
phobic, intolerant and closed minded.
BK: And bigoted. Admittedly, sometimes
it feels a bit lonely. It’s not hard to identify
the fact that a lot of people do not want to
stick their head up for fear of getting it shot
off. I recognize that.
Some lawyers who may have made
submissions to the different law societies
say they can’t really
do that because their
firms might be critical,
or it might damage
relationships with clients or partners.
You have to come
to realize that you may have to represent
people who may feel they can’t use their
voice. On the other hand, I’ve had tremendous support from people I haven’t even
met who say they are praying for us daily
and for our school.
My job is to represent the school. The
school has a leadership role in this that we
need to maintain. Even in the evangelical
Christian community there is a great diversity of opinion on this issue, mainly because
I don’t think it has been thought through
and taught about.
f T: You recently spoke before the Nova
Scotia Barristers’ Society, which was
holding hearings to determine whether it
should recognize degrees from TWU. How
BK: I was pleased that the meeting took
f T: Where is the TWU student body on this
place and that we were allowed to make
oral submission. I think generally the dia-
logue went well. I didn’t feel that anyone
was not willing to have a reasoned discus-
sion at the meeting.
BK: I think there’s a broad diversity of views,
which is in some respects healthy, in others
reflects a lack of real understanding as to
what is at issue here, what the arguments
are for and against a particular position like
that one set out in our community covenant. We are not a homogeneous community. It generates a lot of discussions, which
we’ve had, on the issues of sexual ethics,
sexuality and gender identification issues.
We’ve done as best we can I think to educate in an open, broad, academic freedom
context without constraining the discussion. That’s led to some pretty interesting
points of view – some reflected through students we’ve had who are gay or lesbian. It’s
been worthwhile to have these discussions.
f T: Why would a student from the LGBT
community want to attend TWU?
BK: Just because there’s an LGBT community member that has an affinity with the
Christian environment, that doesn’t mean
they’d agree with our perspective. It would
be unusual under the current social values
context or worldview for a married same-sex couple to want to come to TWU. I think
that would be unusual, but not unheard of.
fT: This discussion gets framed as a
TWU’s proposal for a school of law, although approved by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, has ignited debate in Canada over topics including discrimination, a school’s right to have students sign a community covenant, and of course, religious freedom. The
Council of Canadian Law Deans has spoken out against TWU’s plans for a law school.
Here are three articles that shed light on the controversy. In the first, Bob Kuhn (BK) speaks
with Faith Today senior editor Karen Stiller (FT) about freedom of religion, what TWU’s students
think, the personal nature of the attacks and where he believes Canada is heading. Then, Justin
Cooper shares his expertise on the implications for other Canadian schools, and staff from the
EFC Centre for Faith and Public Life share theirs on the legal backstory.
Canada is becoming
a secular humanist
environment in every