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Canada Supreme Court Says Christian Law School Can Be Denied Accreditation for Opposing Homosexuality

Canada Supreme Court Says Christian Law School Can Be Denied Accreditation for Opposing Homosexuality

Trinity Western University | (Photo: Trinity Western University)

Canada's highest court has ruled that an evangelical Christian law school can be denied accreditation due to the academic institution's opposition to homosexuality.

The Supreme Court of Canada issued two 7–2 rulings Friday morning, concluding that the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario can deny accreditation to Trinity Western University.

In the decision regarding Ontario's Law Society of Upper Canada, the court ruled that the law society "significantly advanced the statutory objectives by ensuring equal access to and diversity in the legal profession and preventing the risk of significant harm to LGBT people."

"The LSUC's decision means that TWU's community members cannot impose those religious beliefs on fellow law students, since they have an inequitable impact and can cause significant harm," claimed the majority opinion.

"The LSUC chose an interpretation of the public interest which mandates access to law schools based on merit and diversity, rather than exclusionary religious practices."

The dissenting justices argued that the denial of accreditation was "a profound interference with the TWU community's freedom of religion."

"It interferes with that community's expression of religious belief through the practice of creating and adhering to a biblically grounded covenant," concluded the dissent.

"In a liberal and pluralist society, the public interest is served, and not undermined, by the accommodation of difference."

Based in British Columbia and established in 1962, TWU was founded as an evangelical Christian liberal arts academic institution.

As part of its Christian identity, TWU has a "community covenant" for its students and faculty that, among other obligations, states that community members will "voluntarily abstain" from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

"The university's mission, core values, curriculum and community life are formed by a firm commitment to the person and work of Jesus Christ as declared in the Bible," read the covenant.

"The community covenant is a solemn pledge in which members place themselves under obligations on the part of the institution to its members, the members to the institution, and the members to one another."

Other actions that the covenant calls for is for its community to abstain from include "gossip, slander, vulgar/obscene language," ... "stealing, misusing or destroying property belonging to others," ... "drunkenness, underage consumption of alcohol, and the use or possession of illegal drugs."

While most of Canada's provincial law societies have granted TWU's law school accreditation, a few, including Ontario, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia have opposed granting accreditation over the covenant's stance on sexual ethics.

TWU's legal action over these denials have had mixed results. For example, while in January 2015 the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the university, in June 2016 the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled against them.

Regarding the Canada Supreme Court's rulings, TWU released a statement Friday morning on social media expressing disappointment at the high court's decision.

"Until now, Canada has encouraged the rich mosaic created by the diversity of views, race, gender, and belief systems," said TWU. "Sadly, the Supreme Court has decided that this does not extend to a law school at Trinity Western University."

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