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Evangelicals argue for religious freedom at the Supreme Court

30 November 2017
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[Editor's note: The Supreme Court's decision in this case is not expected until Nov. 2018.]


OTTAWA, ON – The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and Christian Higher Education Canada (CHEC) are co-intervening in the joint Supreme Court of Canada hearings of Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada and Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia Society, being held today and tomorrow. They will argue that the refusal of these law societies to accredit TWU’s proposed law school violates TWU’s religious freedom.

The EFC and CHEC will argue that:

  • Religious beliefs are manifest in community, and from ancient times Christian communities have self-defined through statements of faith and codes of conduct.
  • Religious freedom includes the freedom for voluntary communities to determine their beliefs and practices.
  • In a free society government agencies should not force religious minorities that are acting lawfully to change their doctrine or the character of their communities.
  • Religous communities acting lawfully should not be denied government recognition or benefit.
  • Religious persons and communities do not surrender their Charter rights when they enter the public sphere.

“Christian institutions are usually founded on statements of faith and codes of conduct,” says EFC President Bruce Clemenger. “They are essential parts of their identity, the codes are consistent with Canadian law and should be respected in a free and democratic society.” 

“No one is disputing TWU’s ability to provide an excellent law school education and produce graduates who will serve Canadians well,” says Clemenger. “Acceditation should not be withheld because some members of a law society do not like TWU’s covenant or their religious beliefs. Government agencies are to neither favor nor hinder religious beliefs.”

“Religious institutions make significant contributions to the public good in Canada and are an important part of the Canadian mosaic,” says Justin Cooper, Executive Director of CHEC. “An essential element of living in a free, diverse and plural society is the affirmation of religious freedom and the ability of religious communities to contribute meaningfully to the broader society. TWU has been doing this for decades.”

The EFC intervened in this case along with Christian Higher Education Canada (CHEC), an association of Christian higher education institutions. TWU is an affiliate of the EFC and a member of CHEC. 

Background on these cases:

  • Trinity Western University, a private Christian liberal arts university with six professional schools, won approval from the B.C. government for a professional law school in December 2013.
  • The Federation of Law Societies of Canada approved the TWU law school in December 2013.
  • In 2014 the Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia law societies refused to approve TWU’s proposed law school, objecting to the section of the TWU Community Covenant requiring students to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman – a view which is informed by the university’s religious commitments.
  • In December 2014, the B.C. government revoked its approval for TWU’s law school based on the decisions of law societies of Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. 
  • In 2015, TWU challenged the law societies in their respective provincial lower courts, winning in Nova Scotia and B.C. but losing in Ontario in decisions focusing on different points of law.
  • In 2016, the law societies of Nova Scotia and B.C. appealed their respective lower court rulings while TWU appealed the Ontario ruling. TWU won decisions at the N.S and B.C courts of appeal but lost in Ontario. The Ontario and BC decisions were appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which agreed to consider the appeals jointly.

For additional resources on the EFC-CHEC intervention in TWU v. LSUC and TWU v. LSBC, including written legal arguments, visit www.theEFC.ca/TWUlaw.

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For additional information or an interview, please contact:

Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
MediaRelations@theEFC.ca
613-233-9868 x332