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Steve Weatherbe

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Nova Scotia lawyers drop court battle against Christian law school

Steve Weatherbe

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, August 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A Nova Scotia legal association halted its efforts to bar in advance any graduates of the law school proposed by British Columbia’s Christian and private Trinity Western University just three weeks after its ban was overruled by the province’s appeals court.

Trinity Western spokesperson Amy Robertson told LifeSiteNews, “We’re pleased that the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society is going to honour the court’s decision.”

Referring to the Nova Scotia lower court ruling in TWU’s favour, she added, “As Justice [Jamie] Campbell affirmed, the freedom to believe in God — or not — and practice accordingly, is a vital right not just for faith communities but all Canadians. This is an important step in maintaining that freedom.”

Trinity Western’s prospective law grads were approved by five provincial law societies and the national federation of law societies but disapproved in advance in British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

The three dissenters found nothing wrong with the academic standards for the prospective school.  Their objection was that TWU required all students and faculty to agree to a community covenant that committed them to live according to Christian moral teachings, including a prohibition on sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage, which the law groups deemed discriminatory to homosexuals.

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society released a statement on Monday acknowledging that it would not challenge the decision by the appeals court, which affirmed the Nova Scotia lower court finding that it was beyond the society’s powers to try to regulate a British Columbia law school and a violation of the religious rights of both TWU students and the school itself.

The Nova Scotia law society said, “With the benefit of advice from legal counsel, the executive committee of council accepted the executive director’s recommendation to take the matter no further.” Because the internal bylaw justifying the ban was found to be “ultra vires,” or beyond its jurisdiction, the statement continued, the society’s ruling council will now consider amending “that regulation to comply with the Court’s decision.”

In Ontario, the outcome so far has favoured the the provincial law society, which has successfully defended its ban in the lower court and at the appeals level. In British Columbia, a lower court has overturned the law society’s ban and the result of the appeal trial is pending. Whoever loses, the society or TWU, is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, as TWU has indicated it will do with the Ontario decision.

The three law societies objecting to TWU’s community covenant presented no evidence of discriminatory behaviour by graduates or by staff, faculty, or students on campus, beyond the community covenant itself.

Virtually all of Canada’s older universities began with strong affiliations to a Christian denomination, but few maintain more than cursory ties today. Founded by members of the Evangelical Free Church, the 59-year-old TWU has 3,600 students and 26,000 alumni in 80 countries.

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