An evangelical Christian University located in Langley, British Columbia is currently embroiled in a debate regarding its "community covenant" as it attempts to establish the first Christian law school in the country.
The Trinity Western University's Bible-based covenant, or lifestyle code, requires all students and faculty to abstain from practices such as drinking, smoking, lying, gossiping, as well as "from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness between a man and a woman."
The heads of Canada's law schools, known as the Council of Canadian Law Deans, have issued a letter which criticizes the Christian university's requirement, calling it "very troubling."
"This is a matter of great concern for all members. […] Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlawful in Canada and fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools," Bill Flanagan, president of the Canadian Council of Law Deans, wrote in a letter issued to the Federation of Canadian Law Societies, which will determine whether the Christian law school receives national accreditation.
Flanagan, who is also the dean of the Queen's University law school, located in Ontario, went on to write that the community covenant is "fundamentally incompatible" with the values of the Canadian law school system in that it reportedly threatens expulsion to those who disobey the policy.
Evangelical supporters of the university argue that the council's objection to the policy is an old argument, as the university previously won a 2001 lawsuit against the British Columbia College of Teachers regarding its community covenant when it attempted to open a teacher's school.
The 2001 Supreme Court ruling was in favor of the university, as it had the right to "freedom of conscience and religion."
In response to the accusations of discrimination, Trinity Western University President Jonathan S. Raymond said that the purpose of the covenant is not to be "anti-gay," but rather to uphold a Christian culture at the university.
"Canada protects religious rights for all Canadians, and we respect the rights of the LGBT community to hold their views," Raymond said in a response statement, as reported by Xtra, a Canada-based gay advocacy news source.
"TWU's covenant is not anti-gay nor discriminatory," Raymond continued. "Students sign codes of conduct at universities voluntarily. TWU's covenant reflects our identity as a Christian university."
Raymond went on to tell the National Post that the university has no intention of teaching "anti-gay curriculum" in the classroom.
Although TWU has received a copy of the Canadian Council of Law Deans' letter, it has stated on its official website that it continues to go forward with production plans and hopes to welcome its first class of students by Sept. 2015.
Additionally, university leaders told The Vancouver Sun that despite the recently-issued letter, they have confidence that the new Christian law school will be approved for accreditation.