The B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled graduates from a controversial proposed Christian law school must be given accreditation in British Columbia.
At issue is Trinity Western University‘s community covenant which all students must sign, saying they will not participate in sexual intimacy outside of a heterosexual marriage.
The Law Society of B.C. held a referendum in 2014 and decided not to recognize the school’s graduates saying the covenant discriminates against members of the LGBTQ community hoping to enter the legal profession.
Today, the Appellate Court ruled the Law Society’s decision not to accredit TWU law graduates was “unreasonable” because it would limit freedom of religion.
It’s a victory the school is cheering, calling it a decision that should be celebrated “as a protection of our Canadian Identity.”
Spokesperson Amy Robertson says “the freedom to believe as we choose and practice accordingly is one of the most profound privileges we have as Canadians.”
She adds LGBTQ students can still enroll in the school if they sign the covenant.
But the Law Society of B.C. says it will consider filing leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Lawyer Barbara Findlay says the school is using religion to justify discrimination.
“Freedom of religion is about what you believe, it is not about your ability to limit the rights of people who don’t share your religion.”
The University hopes to start accepting students by September 2018.
The Law Society’s 2014 referendum overturned an earlier decision by the Benchers, the Law Society’s board, which would have recognized the proposed law school.
Then, last December, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered the referendum results quashed, and the original Benchers’ decision to stand.
The Law Society appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
It argued the court erred in finding proper procedures weren’t followed during the Law Society’s referendum.
Prior to opening the law school based on evangelical Christian values, the university approached law societies across the country to ensure its graduates could work in other provinces.
Five law societies- Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island– agreed to accredit TWU law school graduates.
The law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia refused to accredit the graduates. The University challenged the decisions.
As of now graduates won’t be able to work in Ontario after the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by Trinity Western University.
But in Nova Scotia, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision allowing graduates to practice in that province.
The Law Society now has the option to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.