For immediate release from The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Higher Education Canada
June 15, 2018
OTTAWA, ON – In a complex split ruling released June 15, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Law Societies of BC and Ontario not to approve Trinity Western University's proposed law school. Although the Justices acknowledged that the Court's decision infringes upon Charter protected religious freedoms, the majority decision ruled that restriction was reasonable given the mandate of law societies in serving the public interest and of providing open access to legal education.
A core issue was TWU's community covenant that all students are required to sign and that included the restriction of sexual intimacy to married heterosexual couples.
The EFC responded to today’s court decision. "This is a sad day," said Bruce J. Clemenger, President of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. "While the Court affirmed individual religious freedom and its expression, and did not oppose the idea of a TWU law school, we are deeply concerned that the infringement of Charter freedoms was deemed reasonable, in this case. In a society of deep pluralism, there must be room for a Christian university to remain faithful to its purposes and contribute to the public good."
We affirm the dissenting opinion of Justices Brown and Côté which states:
"The decision not to approve TWU’s proposed law faculty because of the restrictions contained in the Covenant — a code of conduct protected by provincial human rights legislation — is a profound interference with religious freedom, and is contrary to the state’s duty of religious neutrality."
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.
Commenting on the decision, Justin Cooper, Executive Director of CHEC, stated, "While we are disappointed in this setback for Trinity Western, we applaud its commitment, shared by all our members, to train leaders in a Christian context of academic excellence to make a positive contribution to our society."
The EFC and CHEC had argued that the refusal of several law societies to accredit TWU’s proposed law school violated TWU’s Charter protected religious freedom.
“We will continue to seek a robust pluralism that includes the participation of religious institutions and communities in public life, that promotes respect and tolerance of all including religious minorities, and affirms the contributions of religious institutions and communities to our society,” said Clemenger.
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.
For additional information or an interview, please contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada