Janet Epp Buckingham

Religious liberty at stake

  • November 20, 2014

It’s doubtful Janet Epp Buckingham ever dreamed the dream of a law school at Trinity Western University would turn into a crucial test case for religious liberty. 

When I interviewed Epp Buckingham a few years ago, just as she was beginning to promote the TWU law project, the vision she expressed was a world away from the frightening realities it now faces. The focus was on forming the school’s students in the Christian origins of our legal system. A distinct, though connected, intention was to educate prospective lawyers in what Epp Buckingham referred to as “kitchen table law.” By that she meant the capacity and desire to serve the legal needs of ordinary Canadians rather than the demands of corporate Canada. If that meant inspiring graduates away from seeking positions with mega law firms and toward small partnerships, or even independent practice, so much the better. 

Alas, before the law school even opens in 2016, those who might one day walk through its doors aren’t just being steered away from corporate law, in B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia, they’re being bluntly told to stay home. Licensing bodies in these provinces say they’ll refuse to recognize law degrees from the small evangelical Christian university. At issue is a clause in TWU’s code of conduct that asks those at the university to refrain from sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage. Critics denounce that as discriminatory of married homosexual couples. 

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