Saying a society “that does not admit of and accommodate differences cannot be a free and democratic society,” the B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that ensures law school graduates from Trinity Western University in Langley will be able to work in this province.
The decision, released Tuesday morning, requires the B.C. Law Society to recognize law degrees issued by the yet-to-open faculty of law at the private evangelical Christian university.
The society initially approved the law school at TWU, but later withdrew that approval because of controversy over the community covenant all students and staff at TWU are expected to sign.
It asks students to abstain from sexual intimacy outside of marriage, which is defined as between a man and a woman.
Critics complained the clause was anti-gay and would violate a lawyer’s duty to represent all clients.
In the written decision, the appeal court said the “case demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism, can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.”
The ruling was welcomed by Earl Phillips, the executive director of the proposed School of Law.
“The Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that the Community Covenant is not a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Phillips said.
“It is not unlawful discrimination.”
TWU won approval to open a law school from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education in December 2013, but the school has not yet opened because of multiple court battles.
“Everyone, religious or not, should celebrate this decision as a protection of our Canadian identity,” said TWU spokesperson Amy Robertson.
“The freedom to believe as we choose and practice accordingly is one of the most profound privileges we have as Canadians. We are a diverse, pluralistic society, committed to respecting one another even when we disagree. This is something people in many other countries don’t enjoy.”
The university maintains that all students, including LGBTQ students, are welcome to attend and be open about their identities as long as they abide by the community covenant.
TWU has also been to court in Nova Scotia and Ontario to get recognition for its law school graduates, winning a July decision in Nova Scotia and losing a June ruling in Ontario.
TWU is challenging the Ontario ruling decision at the Supreme Court of Canada.