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Canadian bishops say TWU case could have “profound impact” on religious organizations

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  • August 8, 2017
OTTAWA – A case coming this fall to the Supreme Court of Canada could have “a profound impact on all faith-based education, health care and social service facilities,” according to Canada’s bishops.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is one of 32 groups granted intervener status in the case involving Trinity Western University. The case involves TWU’s right to express its evangelical Christian character through a community covenant that requires students, faculty and staff to adhere to certain moral standards, including abstinence from sexual activity outside of a  marriage between a man and a woman.

Two law societies — in British Columbia and Ontario — are refusing to grant accreditation to future law graduates from TWU based on the school’s covenant, which they argue discriminates against LGBT students.  

The matter raises fundamental questions related to religious freedom, said the CCCB in its application for leave to intervene. 

The bishops also expressed concern that ranking human rights could lead to a "hierarchy of rights" in which religious rights become secondary, and "so undermine all Charter protections".

The case will be heard in Ottawa over two days, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

“The position and teachings of the Catholic Church on sexual conduct and same-sex marriage are similar to those expressed in the TWU Community Covenant, which also includes commitment ‘to treat all persons with respect and dignity, and uphold their God-given worth from conception to death,’" the CCCB said. 

“Likewise, the Catholic Church believes all men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, have inherent value, worth and dignity as human persons created and loved by God. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358, teaches that persons with homosexual tendencies and inclinations ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ and ‘Every sign of unjust discrimination ... should be avoided.’"

Ottawa-based constitutional lawyer William Sammon will represent the bishops in the hearing. This will be the 12th time the CCCB has intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada since 1989.

The CCCB, along with a range of faith-based organizations and LGBT advocacy groups had originally been denied intervener standing. But Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin added a second day of hearings to permit all 32 intervener applicants to be heard.

In addition to the CCCB, other groups on the intervener list include the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, the Faith and Freedom Alliance.

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