ANCASTER, Ontario, February 9, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - As a growing body of Canadian professors call on the nation’s leading university teachers’ federation to stop “bullying” the country’s Christian universities, the federation is investigating a fourth institution over alleged violations of academic freedom.
In the last year and a half, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has issued reports against three Christian universities - Trinity Western University (TWU) in British Columbia, Crandall University in New Brunswick, and Canadian Mennonite University in Manitoba - alleging that they are violating academic freedom by requiring professors to sign a statement of faith as a condition of employment. The three have been placed on a “blacklist,” in the words of TWU’s president, on CAUT’s website.
The organization is now investigating Ontario’s Redeemer University-College (RUC), which also requires a statement of faith.
“It’s not an open-ended inquiry into the truth because it begins with a definition that is self-fulfilling,” RUC president Dr. Hubert Krygsman told the National Post. “It’s a definition of academic freedom that says it cannot be faith-based. So by definition any faith-based approach strikes them as contrary to their definition. ... All of the other findings are really fodder for their own beliefs.”
In a statement Wednesday, Dr. Krygsman said they will not participate in the investigation, because the findings are a “foregone conclusion.”
At least 140 professors from secular and religious institutions have signed a petition launched two weeks ago calling on CAUT to end the “harassment” of Christian universities. The petition calls CAUT’s investigations “invasive and unwarranted,” saying they are “inconsistent” with religious freedom.
“The very concept of academic freedom arose historically in religiously founded institutions,” the petitioners point out. “The missional specificity of religious institutions is not without analogue in public institutions, which may contain within them institutes or research centres with their own acknowledged pre-commitments.”
Critics have pointed out that none of the professors at the targeted institutions have made complaints about academic freedom.
The CAUT issued the first report on Trinity Western University in October 2009, followed by one on Crandall University in July 2010, and another on Canadian Mennonite University in October 2010. In each case, the report purported to establish that the institution required a statement of faith - even though that information was publicly available on the institutions’ websites.
After the report on TWU, university president Jonathan Raymond questioned CAUT’s process, saying the organization had failed to even discuss the matter with them. “With us there was no discussion, no exchange,” he said.
“An institution that includes or excludes teachers on basis of a faith test is antithetical to what a university is supposed to be,” CAUT executive director James Turk told the National Post. “We’d be just as concerned if a secular university made its teachers sign an ideological statement.”
“This is not an attack on religious institutions,” continued Turk, who was unavailable for comment. “The majority of religious schools do not have a faith test for employment.”
“A university is meant as a place to explore ideas, not to create disciples of Christ,” he added.
Dr. Guenther Haas, a professor of religion and theology at Redeemer University-College, told LifeSiteNews that CAUT’s “campaign” is “simply a reflection of CAUT’s bias against Christian universities. It is their attempt to portray these universities in a bad light in the academic world of Canada.”
“There is no assumption-free knowledge,” Dr. Haas said, arguing that academic study is always directed by a specific framework, whether it’s Christian or a post-Enlightenment secularism. He said public universities have their own “implicit” assumptions that guide their hiring and research. “In practice, if not in principle, many would not have the same view of hiring a psychologist who was an evolutionary materialist as opposed to one who held to a view of humans consistent with traditional Christian theology,” he explained.
In fact, the CAUT has supported ideological hiring requirements in the past. In 1999, their bulletin ran an ad for a University of Toronto tenure-track professorship that specified it was restricted to candidates with a “feminist and anti-racist perspective.”
U of T professor Thomas Pangle said such requirements are “implicit” at U of T. The ad “makes explicit what I had thought was usually only implicit, namely, that ideological conformity was the chief prerequisite for such a position at our university,” he told the National Post at the time.
Dr. Syd Hielema, an associate professor of religion at Redeemer University-College, told LifeSiteNews that a statement of faith “is an absolute necessity for a Christian university.”
“A statement of faith that has profound meaning for the central identity of a university and is put into practice in dozens of systemic ways is vital for Christian universities to be true to their roots and identity,” he explained.
Since RUC’s founding 28 years ago, said Dr. Krygsman in his statement Wednesday, “we have not had a single instance of a faculty member alleging that their academic freedom has been infringed in any way.”
“By acknowledging that all truth is rooted in God, and by encouraging an exploration of all aspects of His creation, we believe that our faith basis promotes the pursuit of knowledge and understanding,” he said.
LifeSiteNews did not hear back from Dr. Krygsman by press time.
Find more information on the petition here.
To respectfully voice concerns, contact:
Canadian Association of University Teachers
2705 Queensview Drive
Ottawa Ontario K2B 8K2
Phone: (613) 820-2270
Fax: (613) 820-7244