Trinity Western University in an undated photo. The private Christian school has struggled to get its proposed law school accredited across Canada. Photo/Courtesy of Trinity Western University via Facebook

Ontario court rules against Trinity Western University law school accreditation

  • June 29, 2016

TORONTO – The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court’s ruling on the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision to not accredit graduates of Trinity Western University’s law school.

The court ruled today that the law society was reasonable in withholding accreditation to graduates of the private British Columbia Christian university, upholding a previous decision made in Divisional Court. 

The society had refused to accredit TWU graduates due to the community covenant students must sign which it said discriminates against the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer) community. The covenant requires students to abstain from a number of acts, including the most contentious, sexual intimacy “that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” 

Andre Schutten, counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action, said the ruling infringes upon the religious freedom of the university.

“To find that religious freedom was infringed, as the court did, but then to rule that the infringement is justified despite evidence that the infringement was not necessary, is very troubling,” said Schutten. 

“The law society is a state actor, and as such, should not discriminate against minority Christian groups simply because their faith commitments may be unpopular.”

The association was an intervenor in the case and made written and oral arguments focused on equality rights of Christians outlined in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"In court and in public debate, this dispute between TWU and the law society has been framed as equality rights of the LGBTQ community on one hand against the religious freedom rights of Christians on the other,” said Schutten. “But the section 15 equality right in the Charter also protects religious individuals. By denying accreditation to an approved law school simply because the students voluntarily sign onto a religious community covenant that some lawyers or judges find distasteful results in discrimination against Christian students.” 

Schutten said the ruling “endorses a false dilemma” that by protecting religious rights is “to undermine LGBTQ rights. If this decision holds, this case marks a serious decline in religious freedom.”

A similar appeal is before the courts in Nova Scotia.

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