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Trinity Western: Supreme court ruled against ‘diversity’ in Canada

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne

OTTAWA, June 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Canadian Christian college at the heart of today’s landmark Supreme Court ruling favoring LGBTQ “rights” over freedom of religion said the ruling is ultimately against true "diversity."

“We feel this is a loss of diversity in Canada. Canada has traditionally upheld values of diversity for a broad array of religious views so we’re very disappointed in the way that the Supreme court has ruled today,” Janet Buckingham, a professor at Trinity Western University, told reporters in Ottawa Friday.

Buckingham said the college was "saddened" by the decision.

“They have ruled that there is not room in Canada to have a law school at a small Christian university in British Columbia,” she said. 

In a pair of 7-2 rulings (here and here), Canada’s top court ruled it was “proportionate and reasonable” for the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario to refuse accreditation to future graduates of Trinity Western University's (TWU) proposed law school because the college’s Community Covenant discriminates against LGBTQ people.

TWU, a private Christian college associated with the Evangelical Free Church, requires students sign a commitment to refrain from, among other things, any sexual activity “that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The ruling means that future grads from Trinity Western University’s law school will not be able to practice law in Ontario and B.C. Buckingham’s comments left it an open question as to whether the law school will open at all.

“We will not be starting a law school in the near future, and we will have to consider our options to determine how we’re going to go forward with this,” Buckingham told reporters. 

Buckingham commented that the Supreme Court ruled “there is a violation of religious freedom for the university, but ultimately ruled that in balancing rights and freedoms, that Trinity Western is not entitled to have its law school recognized by the law societies.”

When reporters asked if TWU will drop its community covenant, Buckingham said the university will “need some time to process this very long and complex judgment” but will continue as it has been.

“Trinity Western University is not violating any laws, and the court did not say that we are violating any laws, so, for the moment, we are going to continue operating as we have,” she said.

“We do invite a diverse array of people to come to Trinity Western so long as they are willing to become part of our community.”

The court issued two rulings, one on an appeal by the Law Society of British Columbia, and one on an appeal by TWU against Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada

Five justices —  Rosalie Abella, Michael Moldaver, Andromache Karakatsanis, Richard Wagner and Clement Gascon — ruled the law societies’ decisions were reasonable. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who has since retired, and Justice Malcolm Rowe agreed but for different reasons, which were set out in separate opinions. 

The court’s majority opinion in the Law Society of British Columbia ruling stated the “decision not to accredit Trinity Western University’s proposed law school represents a proportionate balance between the limitation on the Charter right at issue and the statutory objectives the [law societies] sought to pursue.”

The ruling also held LGBTQ students at the proposed law school would suffer harm as a result of the Community Covenant, and that the law societies were acting the public interest to prevent this.

“Attending TWU’s law school would mean that LGBTQ students would have to deny a crucial component of their identity in the most private and personal of spaces for three years in order to receive a legal education,” the ruling noted [paras. 96 - 103].

“LGBTQ students enrolled at TWU’s law school may suffer harm to their dignity and self-worth, confidence and self-esteem, and may experience stigmatization and isolation,” it stated.

“The refusal to approve TWU’s proposed law school prevents concrete, not abstract, harms to LGBTQ people and to the public in general.”

Justices Russell Brown and Suzan Côté dissented, writing that the majority “betrays the promise of our Constitution that rights limitations must be demonstrably justified.”

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