Supreme Court of Canada granted Trinity Western University leave to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling maintained the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision to refuse accreditation to graduates of the school’s proposed law school. Photo courtesy of Trinity Western University via Facebook

Supreme Court to hear Trinity Western University's religious freedom case

  • February 28, 2017

OTTAWA – Trinity Western University will have an opportunity to defend its religious freedom and pro-traditional marriage community covenant before the Supreme Court of Canada.

On Feb. 20, Canada’s highest court granted the private evangelical Christian university leave to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling that sided with the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision to refuse accreditation to graduates of Trinity Western’s proposed law school.

Though the Ontario Court of Appeal recognized the Law Society’s decision infringed Trinity Western’s religious freedom, it said the infringement was reasonable in light of the Society’s statutory obligations to protect the public interest.

“This will be the biggest religious freedom case of definitely the decade and possibly of the next half century,” said constitutional lawyer André Schutten, the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada’s legal counsel and director of law and policy.

At issue is Trinity Western’s community covenant that all faculty and students must sign. Among the covenant’s requirements is a promise to refrain from all sexual activity outside of traditional marriage.

“This goes beyond just the individual right to religious freedom, to now talking about the right for an institution, for a community of believers together to be able to identify, to associate and to profess a particular belief about a deeply held conviction about their religion, in this case about marriage and sexuality in particular,” Schutten said.

“We are pleased that leave was granted in this case so it can proceed to be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Bob Kuhn, President of Trinity Western University, in a Feb. 23 release.

“We believe that the Court will protect the TWU religious community, based on last year’s ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal and the 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision involving Trinity Western University’s School of Education.”

The Supreme Court also granted leave to appeal the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision that ruled against the Law Society of British Columbia’s refusal to accredit future students. The Court will hear these two appeals simultaneously.

The university’s covenant prompted the B.C. College of Teachers to block accreditation of graduates of Trinity Western’s teachers college on grounds the community covenant is discriminatory against the LGBT community. That case was fought all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in TWU’s favour in an 8-1 decision in 2001.

“Basically what the state has said, even though we fully admit you are completely competent, we are going to say because of your religious beliefs we will not recognize your credentials,” Schutten said. “That to me is a very scary proposition and I hope that it will be roundly and soundly defeated at the Supreme Court of Canada.”

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Woe, Canada!

Russ LaPeer
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