Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group U/Natural Law
Natural Law theory
The natural law theory is concerned only with laws that are derived from a higher, non-human source. If a law is derived from God, nature, or reason, the natural law theory will recognize it as true law. A true law is not pure God’s law. A true law is a law that was created by a divine source that passed through the correct exercise of a man’s reasoning process. As per Thomas Aquinas, there are four elements of a true law under the traditional natural law theory. Natural law theorists are essentialists. They believe the act of seeking good is in our nature bestowed by God. As a result, the first element of a true law requires a true law to be directed to the common good, including universal happiness, the good of community, and a stable society. Laws are true if they use threats, force, and punishment to set out reasoned steps to take people to the common good. Second, laws must be practical reasons that are directed to the common good. Third, laws must be made by valid lawmakers with the purpose of guiding people towards the common good. Finally, laws must be promulgated. The rationale behind this requirement is that in order for laws to successfully lead people toward the common good, the laws must be written down and known to the public.
Connection between law and morality
According to natural law theorists, morality is universal and unchanging. In other words, morality is the same for everyone, in all places, and at all times. Morality is inherent in natural law. As a result, all true laws are universal and unchanging. People have the obligation to obey true laws. True laws are valid laws that must be obeyed for reasons of justice, fairness, and morality. As a result, people have the moral obligation to obey true laws because it is what we ought to do morally. If a law is not true, there is a moral obligation not to obey it.
Roles of judges and legislators
As per Thomas Aquinas, the legislators are the valid lawmakers. This is not due to the respect of parliamentary supremacy. Instead, it is due to legislator’s ability to possess greater authority than judges, their greater likelihood of possessing wisdom, and the fact that they are less moved by emotions than judges. As a result, legislators’ role is to enact true laws that guide people towards the common good. Judges, on the other hand, are not valid lawmakers. Their roles are limited to making just judgments. A just judgment is a right decision about what is just. It requires prudence, the inclination of justice, and authority. Generally, judges should apply the written law because it is made by legislators. However, if written laws are contrary to natural law, judges ought not to consider them true laws and ought not to apply them.
Application of Natural Law to Trinity Western University v. BC
In order to assess the case in light of the natural law theory, it is necessary to analyze whether the TWU’s “Community Standards” and s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act are considered true laws.
TWU’s “Community Standards”
TWU established a teacher training program. As part of its admission process, TWU required all applicants to sign the “Community Standards”, a document which prohibits homosexual activities. Upon TWU’s application to the BCCT for permission to assume complete responsibility for the program, the BCCT refused TWU’s application on the basis that it is contrary to the public interest to allow a school to engage in discriminatory practices. Whether the “Community Standards” is a law derived from a higher source or is human-made largely depends on one’s subjective belief. A person who is pro-homosexuality may argue the “Community Standards” is human-made while another whose religion prohibits homosexuality may argue the “Community Standards” is derived from God. Thomas Aquinas lived in the 14th century. During this time, the dominant religion was Catholic. As a result, in the eyes of Thomas Aquinas, the “Community Standards” is more likely viewed as a law derived from God. As a result, the “Community Standards” is considered a true law.
Thomas Aquinas stated that a true law must have four elements: (1) must be directed to the common good (2) must be of practical reason (3) must be made by a valid lawmaker (4) and must be promulgated.
(1) Common Good
As per Thomas Aquinas, common good includes universal happiness, the good of the community, stable communities, self-preservation, procreation, and exercising spiritual and intellectual capacities. Through this reasoning, it could be argued that the “Community Standards” is directed towards the common good because it creates stability by promoting a traditional family structure, procreation, self-preservation, and the exercise of intellectual and spiritual capacities in the pursuit of knowledge.
(2) Practical Reason
Laws are of practical reason if it guides people towards the common good. Since prohibition of homosexual activities is sufficiently connected to reaching the common good mentioned above, it could be concluded that prohibition of homosexual activities is of practical reason.
(3) Valid Lawmaker
According to Thomas Aquinas, only legislators are valid lawmakers. The lawmaker in this case is BCCT. BCCT is empowered under s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act to approve or disapprove programs on the basis of public interest (para 11). No such legislative delegation has been made to TWU. As a result, TWU cannot be considered a valid lawmaker. The “Community Standards” fails as a true law on this ground.
The “Community Standards” is written and provided for all applicants. As a result, it satisfied this requirement.
In conclusion, the “Community Standards” cannot be considered a true law according to the natural law theory because it fails to satisfy all four elements presented by Thomas Aquinas.
S.4 of the Teaching Profession Act
(1) Common Good
BCCT is empowered under s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act to “establish, having regard to the public interest, standards for the education, professional responsibility and competence of its members, persons who hold certificates of qualification and applicants for membership and… to encourage the professional interest of its members”. BCCT rejected TWU’s application because it contradicts human rights value. To allow discriminatory practices, such as prohibition of homosexual activities, is contrary to the public interest. S.4 of the Teaching Profession Act is directed towards common good because it promotes human rights value. Through promoting human rights value, BCCT also promotes universal happiness, the good of the community, stable communities, self-preservation, procreation, and exercising spiritual and intellectual capacities.
(2) Practical Reason
Since promotion of human rights values is sufficiently connected to reaching the common good, it could be concluded that s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act is of practical reason.
(3) Valid lawmaker
As mentioned earlier, Thomas Aquinas only recognizes legislators as valid lawmakers. Through the power of delegation, BCCT was appointed to be the lawmaker in relation to s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act. Thus, BCCT is a valid lawmaker in the eyes of natural law theorists.
S.4 of the Teaching Profession Act is promulgated because it is written and available to the public.
Decision of the Court
The decision of the court in this case is in compliance with the ideology of natural law theory. The natural law theory promotes universal happiness as one of the primary common good. Universal happiness is achieved in this case. The court ultimately decides that neither freedom of religion nor the guarantee against discrimination based on sexual orientation is absolute. Thomas Aquinas lived in a homogeneous society where equality was not of great issue. Modern society does not share this characteristic. Diversity is apparent in our society and equality has become an important value. The Court in this case takes this into account and seeks to maximize equality in his decision. The Court successfully reconciled the two interests by allowing TWU’s application to be approved while prohibiting teachers from the program to act in discriminatory ways. It can be concluded that the Court’s decision in this case is consistent with the natural law theory.
- Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, 2001 SCC 31,  1 SCR 772 at para 4.
- Ibid at para 5.
- Ibid at para 11.
- Ibid at para 5.
- Ibid at para 31.