Considering how Canadian courts have become more protective of gay rights in recent years, I’m really not surprised by this decision:
Societies governing the legal profession have the right to deny accreditation to a proposed law school at a Christian university in British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.
In a pair of keenly anticipated decisions Friday, the high court said law societies in Ontario and British Columbia were entitled to ensure equal access to the bar, support diversity and prevent harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.
The cases pitted two significant societal values — freedom of religion and promotion of equality — against one another.
Trinity Western University, a private post-secondary institution in Langley, B.C., was founded on evangelical Christian principles and requires students to adhere to a covenant allowing sexual intimacy only between a married man and woman.
In each case, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favour of the respective law society.
A majority found that the decisions to deny accreditation were reasonable because they appropriately balanced the interference to freedom of religion with the public-interest objectives of the law societies.
In the decision concerning Ontario, five Supreme Court justices said the province’s law society interfered only with the university’s ability to operate a law school governed by the mandatory covenant.
“This limitation is of minor significance because a mandatory covenant is not absolutely required to study law in a Christian environment in which people follow certain religious rules of conduct, and attending a Christian law school is preferred, not necessary, for prospective TWU law students.”
The ruling doesn’t say law societies must deny accreditation to TWU, so for now its graduates could still practice in the six provinces where law societies have approved it. Another option could be for the school to amend its covenant to say students pledge to abstain from premarital sex, full stop, without bringing a “man and woman” into it.
Considering the implications for Trinity Westerns’ other programs, including education and nursing, the school will likely have to concede defeat and make some changes, or shut itself down entirely. I think a Christian institution could provide a useful counterweight to Canada’s other, decidedly left-leaning law schools, so I hope they do what they can to keep operating and provide an alternative – which anyone can attend.