Trinity Western University’s law school has been denied accreditation by Ontario and Nova Scotia and will take the two law societies to court over their decisions. The Langley, B.C.-based Christian university’s Community Covenant that requires students to “voluntarily abstain” from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” has triggered opposition from adversaries who argue that the covenant discriminates against homosexuals.
Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada voted against accreditation in a 28-21 vote on April 24. This means law graduates from TWU hoping to practice in Ontario must go before a national committee on accreditation that ensures curriculum standards are met, lawyer Christopher Bredt told the Canadian Press. “Concerns were expressed about the discriminatory effect of TWU’s Community Covenant,” according to the LSUC treasurer’s statement about the decision.
“I cannot vote to accredit a law school which seeks to control students in their bedrooms,” said Howard Goldblatt, during the Society’s debate.
TWU president Bob Kuhn told the Globe and Mail that the vote “can’t help but have a chilling effect on the freedom with which Christians, especially evangelical Christians, feel a part of the society.”
On April 25, the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society, in a close 10-9 vote, approved accreditation of TWU’s law school as long as the university abolishes the sexual intimacy policy in the Community Covenant. NSBS president Rene Gallant told the Canadian Press that TWU graduates would not be able to article in Nova Scotia, but can still practice in the province.
TWU’s program had already been recognized, however, by other organizations. The Law Society of British Columbia on April 11 accredited the law school in a 20-6 vote. The law program received preliminary approval from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada in December.
In 2001, in a similar case, the Supreme Court forced the BC College of Teachers to approve TWU’s teacher education program after it came under fire due to the university’s policy against homosexual activity.
Jonathan Kay argued in the National Post that opponents to TWU’s law school are ignoring the fact that Christian law schools in the United States “have long co-existed quite peaceably” within the legal profession and whose graduates would be allowed to practice law in Ontario if they meet admission requirements, unlike future TWU students. Kay states that he met many graduates of religious law schools while practicing in the U.S. “Law school had not taught them to be homophobic bigots in lawyer’s garb: instead, they were competent and humane professionals who also happened to be religious.”
Justin Cooper, executive director of Christian Higher Education Canada, writes in the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Faith Today magazine that the decision to deny recognition to schools based on religion and morality will affect all professional and academic programs, as “it would put pressure on Christian universities and graduate schools to dumb down … moral standards that reserve sexual intimacy for traditional marriage.”
On May 6, TWU announced that it will challenge the Nova Scotia and Ontario law societies’ decisions in court. It will also act as a respondent in the lawsuit launched on April 14 by law firms Ruby Schiller Chan Hasan and Janes Freedman Kyle Law Corporation on behalf of Trevor Loke challenging the British Columbia government’s decision to accredit TWU’s law program. TWU has retained the law firms Bennett Jones and Boyne Clark.