Canada’s top court to rule on landmark religious freedom case Friday

The ruling is considered by many as the important high court decision pertaining to religious freedom in the past half-century.
Thu Jun 14, 2018 - 9:24 am EST
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OTTAWA, June 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The Supreme Court of Canada is handing down a ruling Friday on a landmark case pitting religious freedom against alleged discrimination based on sexual conduct.

The top court’s highly anticipated decision on Trinity Western University is “already being considered the most important high court decision pertaining to religious freedom in the past half century,” notes the Catholic Civil Rights League, which along with Faith and Freedom Alliance and the Archdiocese of Vancouver was one of 21 interveners in the case.

“This case is likely to have extensive ramifications for religious institutions and the participation of their members in public life,” echoes another intervener, the Association for Reformed Political Action Canada (ARPA) in a press statement on the upcoming judgment. 

Trinity Western University, a Christian college in Langley, BC, challenged the law societies of Ontario and British Columbia in court after both societies voted not to accredit graduates of TWU’s future law school.

The law societies objected to TWU’s requirement that students sign a Community Covenant promising, among other things, to refrain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The societies argued the Community Covenant “has a discriminatory impact on LGBTQ+ persons, women, and people with different beliefs about sexual morality,” explains ARPA.

The Supreme Court heard the case November 30 and December 1 last year.

“We have warned in the past that the position the court will take on Trinity Western will have serious implications on provincial education rights, the position of Catholic or private schools, or the status of religious charities,” CCRL president Phil Horgan noted in arguments to the court.

Indeed, the intervention by the Canadian Bar Association was clear the “logical implication” of refusing accreditation to TWU was that “religious charities would soon face future pressures to abandon religious positions in favour of the demands of gender, gay, lesbian, or trans activists, in order to retain the benefit of charitable status,” Horgan stated.

Trinity Western “is entitled to maintain its religious views, including its position on a biblical understanding of marriage,” noted a statement released by CCRL at the time.

The same view “is shared by the teachings of the Catholic Church. Are Catholic lawyers to be denied accreditation? Are Catholics going to be denied entry into professions for having such views?” it noted.

“The implications for Catholics and Catholic institutions such as education and healthcare are tremendous. We must not be compelled to have our teachings suppressed as a requirement for participation in the public square,” CCRL stated.

ARPA Canada lawyer André Schutten also disputed the reliance of the law societies on human rights legislation and the Charter to support their claims.

Trinity Western University “does not violate Ontario’s or B.C.’s human rights statutes,” the ARPA statement pointed out. “Rather, human rights statutes permit and protect religious associations.”

As for the Charter, it “does not apply to TWU,” ARPA noted. 

The Charter’s purpose is to shield “minorities from the state,” and it is “not a sword that state institutions, such as the law societies, can use to enforce ideological conformity.”

The Evangelical Christian Fellowship, which also intervened on behalf of TWU, will be hosting a webinar June 27 with president Bruce J. Clemenger and Albertos Polizogopoulos, legal co-counsel for the EFC in the case, to dissect the ruling and its impact on Christian education.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision is expected to be released at 9:45 a.m. Friday.

  religious freedom, supreme court, supreme court of canada, trinity western university

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