VANCOUVER, British Columbia, November 1, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A unanimous decision by five British Columbia Appeal Court judges overruled the province’s Law Society, forcing it to recognize future graduates of Trinity Western University's law school, which would become Canada's only Christian law school.
The Appeal Court ruled that the Law Society, by rejecting in advance all graduates of TWU’s proposed law school, “denies these evangelical Christians the ability to exercise fundamental religious and associative rights … assured to them under section 2 of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms].’”
The Law Society claimed it was rejecting TWU, not its individual graduates, because of the Langley, B.C., school’s Christian community covenant that forbids sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. This, the Law Society contended, was discriminatory against homosexuals.
But the Appeal Court ruled that “While there is no doubt that the Covenant’s refusal to accept LGBTQ expressions of sexuality is deeply offensive and hurtful to the LGBTQ community … there is no Charter or other legal right to be free from views that offend and contradict an individual’s strongly held beliefs.”
The court added that members of Law Society had called the TWU’s community covenant “abhorrent,” “archaic,” and “hypocritical ”— views that “would no doubt be deeply offensive and hurtful” to the school’s Evangelical Christian supporters.
While the original decision against the Law Society in the B.C. Supreme Court last year was narrow and technical, the Appeal Court’s ruling is broad and sweeping.
“This case,” it reads in part, “demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism, can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.” This in effect turns the Law Society’s narrative about protecting minority sexual rights on its head. If anyone is a sexual minority in Canada, it seems to be saying, it is Christians.
“Everyone, religious or not, should celebrate this decision as a protection of our Canadian identity,” says Amy Robertson, a university spokesperson. “The freedom to believe as we choose and practice accordingly is one of the most profound privileges we have as Canadians. We are a diverse, pluralistic society, committed to respecting one another even when we disagree.”
John Carpay, head of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which intervened on TWU’s behalf, called the ruling “great news for a free society. The justices in this case show a good understanding of what it means to be a free society.”
The Law Society did not announce whether it would appeal the decision. Its short statement read, “The BC Court of Appeal decision in the Trinity Western University law school matter released today adds another dimension to an already complex issue. The Law Society will be reviewing the decision and considering next steps.”
The situation is indeed complex. The law societies of Nova Scotia and Ontario also rejected TWU law graduates, but the Nova Scotia courts have soundly overruled its legal profession, and the Ontario courts have just as soundly ratified the decision of the province’s legal profession, the largest in Canada. The Nova Scotia legal profession has given up its challenge, and Trinity Western has announced that it will appeal the Ontario decision.
It is widely accepted that if the B.C. Law Society decides to appeal, the two cases will be joined and proceed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
After the three law societies rejected TWU, the B.C. government withdrew its approval of the school.
As well a liberal arts, general science and education degrees, Trinity Western University offers professional degrees in such fields as business and nursing.