Canadian law school ruling is a ‘blow to religious freedom’
When the Supreme Court in Canada recently ruled that the law societies of Ontario and British Columbia are now permitted to deny Trinity Western University’s (TWU) proposed law school accreditation because of its Christian standards of morality, wailing and gnashing of teeth predictably followed.
According to this report, Gerald Chipeur, above, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International attorney who represented TWU in the lawsuits, is now saying that the 7–2 decision clearly discriminates against Christians and violates their religious freedom guaranteed to all Canadians.
[Canada’s highest court] has abandoned the promise of freedom that led to the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 36 years ago, Individuals will need to turn to their legislators to protect freedom of religion.
And ADF International said in a statement:
[The Supreme Court of Canada] dealt a major blow to religious freedom and freedom of association.
ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman contended that the high court’s ruling essentially strips faith-based academic institutions of their right to be run according to their religious beliefs.
[Religious universities and schools] should be free to operate according to the faith they teach and to which they adhere. We are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision. Freedom of religion and association is not only essential for faith-based organizations, but for the functioning of democracy itself. Following this ruling, that vital freedom is now in jeopardy.
LGBT advocates of the two law societies that denied TWU accreditation argue that the proposed law school’s Christian code of conduct discriminates against members of the homosexual community, but six other Canadian law societies had no problem with Trinity upholding its biblical standards of morality.
Canadian Supreme Court Justices Russell Brown and Suzanne Côté were in the minority in the 7–2 ruling, arguing that TWU should not be refused accreditation because it practices a code of conduct this is protected by Canadian law.
However, the judges ruling against TWU saw things differently, maintaining that the two law societies can legally discriminate against Christians and thus refuse accreditation based on its religious code of conduct. The five justices wrote in their decision:
It is inimical to the integrity of the legal profession to limit access on the basis of personal characteristics. This is especially so in light of the societal trust enjoyed by the legal profession. The reality is that most LGBTQ individuals will be deterred from attending TWU’s proposed law school, and those who do attend will be at the risk of significant harm.
They also said that requiring a person to behave contrary to their sexual identity is:
Degrading and disrespectful and offends the public perception that freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.
Janet Epp Buckingham, above, a Trinity Western professor who helped develop the law school proposal, expressed disappointment.
This is something that has been a dream of mine for 25 years. We will not be starting a law school in the near future, and we will have to consider our options to determine how we’re going to go forward with this.
Earl Phillips, Executive Director of the proposed school, added in a statement:
All Canadians should be troubled by today’s decision that sets a precedent for how the courts will interpret and apply charter rights and equality rights going forward.
But Ontario Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas saw the Canadian Supreme Court decision as a major win for the LGBT rights.
It is an affirmation of the critical work we have done and continue to do to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
Hat tip: Vanity Unfair