Heard any good lawyer jokes lately? Okay, here’s one: Why don’t sharks attack lawyers? Professional courtesy.
Before our friends in the legal profession email me in protest, let me say that we kid because we love. And, besides, my oldest and dearest colleague at BreakPoint told me this joke. And of course, he’s a lawyer, just as Chuck Colson was.
More importantly, the only reason these kinds of jokes are popular is that many people, rightly or wrongly, have doubts about the ethics of the legal profession.
All of which makes the latest developments in Canada all the more incomprehensible.
Recently, Albertos Polizogopoulos, (yes, that’s Greek), an Ottawa attorney, told readers of the Cardus blog that “in 2014, lawyers and doctors were targeted by their own professional associations for direct attack because of their religious beliefs.”
One example he cited was the case of Trinity Western University in British Columbia. Trinity Western’s mission is to “develop godly leaders” in a variety of fields, including business and law. As part of this development, Trinity Western requires its faculty, staff, and students to sign a Community Covenant which, among other things, requires students to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”[Some] can guess how that requirement is going over with some “progressively-minded” officials. The Canadian equivalents of bar associations in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia decided to refuse admission to Trinity’s law graduates because of that covenant. This despite a 2001 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that Trinity’s graduates could not be denied admission on account of the covenant.
It isn’t only bar associations. A group calling itself “Legal Leaders for Diversity,” which consists of “the heads of the legal departments from more than 70 major corporations,” want to “restrict hiring of law firms for their legal work to those who have a commitment to ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness.’” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that “diversity” and “inclusive” includes support for same-sex marriage.
Thus, even those, like Polizogopoulos, who didn’t attend Trinity’s law school but who share Trinity’s “biblical view of marriage,” are regarded as unqualified to practice law. Not from a lack of expertise—Polizogopoulos has represented clients before Canada’s highest courts—but because their religious beliefs are disqualifying.
At the very least, the message is: If you oppose same-sex marriage, keep your opinions to yourself or else there will be a steep professional price to pay. Forget about representing the Bank of Montreal, Ford, the Globe and Mail or even the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s ironic, to put it mildly, that a profession where personal and professional ethics are supposed to be at a premium would set out to exclude people whose mission is to be godly leaders. It speaks volumes about the skewed priorities of western culture that a respected attorney would say that “It’s a scary time to be a Christian professional in Canada.”
To his great credit, Polizogopoulos, whose specialties include constitutional law, is prepared to fight to preserve his and other’s religious freedom. Good for him. He wants to send a message that “we will no longer be bullied or intimidated.”
It’s a message that, unfortunately, is equally needed south of the Canadian border. Not only for our sake but for the rest of society’s as well.
Eric Metaxas is currently the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries