WINNIPEG, Manitoba, April 30, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – If University of Manitoba (U of M) law professors get their way, the province’s Law Society will join Ontario and Nova Scotia in denying approval of Trinity Western University’s (TWU) proposed School of Law, thus prohibiting future Christian law-grads from practicing in all three provinces.
TWU is facing a barrage of attacks over its “community covenant” requiring all students to adhere to Christian sexual morality. Opponents say the policy discriminates against homosexuals because it asks students to “voluntarily abstain” from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
“What you're encountering is what's called indirect discrimination,” said U of M law dean Lorna Turnbull to the Winnipeg Free Press.
University faculty and students plan to make a submission to the Law Society against accrediting TWU before June.
TWU law graduates are currently cleared to practice in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut.
Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon have yet to make a decision.
The law societies of Ontario and Nova Scotia became the first two province’s this month to reject TWU’s accreditation in close votes of 28-21 and 10-9, respectively. This comes despite the Federation of Law Societies of Canada approving TWU’s School of Law in December last year.
TWU President Bob Kuhn said he was “disappointed” by the rejections.
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“These decisions impact all Canadians and people of faith everywhere. They send the chilling message that you cannot hold religious values and also participate fully in public society,” he said.
Gwen Landolt, a lawyer and National Vice President of Real Women of Canada, said the provinces’ rejection of TWU’s law school shows a “terrible intolerance, a lack of respect, and how freedom of speech is being curtailed by a very heavy lobby.”
“The only rights that seem to matter now are homosexual rights. Freedom of religion is no longer compatible or equal to homosexual rights in the public square,” she told LifeSiteNews.
Kuhn said TWU is reviewing its options, including legal recourse.
“These provincial law societies are not the final authority. We feel the Ontario and Nova Scotia decisions are legally incorrect and it may now be necessary to re-litigate an issue that has already been decided in our favour by an 8 to 1 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001,” he said.
Free speech advocate Ezra Levant of Sun News has started a petition demanding that the law societies “immediately rescind their bigoted rulings, and that other Canadian law societies welcome the TWU law students in the spirit of Canadian tolerance, pluralism and the freedom of religion guaranteed in our Constitution.”
Vancouver lawyer Tony Wilson, a bencher of the Law Society of British Columbia, defended his April 11 vote in favor of the law school. The province’s Law Society voted 20-6 in favor of the school.
“Despite being an atheist with ‘no horse in this race,’ I voted the way I did because of something called the rule of law, which among other things, dictates that courts and administrative bodies like ours shouldn’t cherry pick the laws we like from the ones we don’t,” wrote Wilson in his piece that ran in the Globe and Mail. “I don’t believe we can choose to disregard the leading case on this issue just because we don’t like the case or we don’t like the covenant.”
Noting that the Supreme Court already sided with TWU in 2001, Wilson said: “I believe that the benchers must follow the decisions of higher courts, particularly the Supreme Court of Canada. That’s the way our justice system works. Otherwise the law is nothing more than the political, ethical and unpredictable partialities of one judge, and laws developed in this fashion are neither fair, consistent nor predictable. That’s one reason why we have the Supreme Court: To tell lower courts, and other judicial and quasi-judicial bodies what the law is, and how it should be interpreted and applied.”
TWU plans to go forward with its launch of the country’s first Christian school of law in 2016, with the first graduating class in 2019.