TORONTO February 17, 2014 – The League has written to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) encouraging its members to welcome future graduates of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school, noting that failure to do so would violate religious freedom.
The Langley, B.C. university, whose application to establish a law school application was approved by the Federation of Law Societies of Upper Canada and the B.C. government, now faces opposition from some provincial law associations. Most of the opposition is based on the school’s Community Covenant, a code of Christian conduct covering a variety of ethical teachings including a prohibition of sexual intimacy outside of marriage between one man and one woman. Critics claim this is discriminatory to homosexuals, and by extension would produce graduates who cannot represent them fairly.
In 2001 the Supreme Court of Canada examined this issue with respect to an application by TWU for a teacher education program. In an 8 to 1 decision the Supreme Court of Canada indicated that TWU could maintain its religious views and still fully participate in Canadian society. The Supreme Court stated: “…freedom of religion is not accommodated if the consequence of its exercise is the denial of the right of full participation in society.”
“It is the League’s view that a pre-determined denial of acceptance of graduates of an otherwise qualified law graduate from entrance into your Society would be an unacceptable intrusion into the religious and conscientious liberty of the individual, and in our view, without justification,” said our letter from President Philip Horgan.
”The opposition to TWU’s law school suggests that some limited notion of “diversity” demands that your Society require adherence or conformity to norms of thought or belief for which citizens, including the current lawyers within your Society, are allowed to disagree. A robust pluralism depends on the free exchange of such positions, and the law acknowledges such freedoms. The League submits that your Society is charged to ensure compliance with the Charter, so as to allow freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of belief, and freedom of expression. We submit that opponents to the recognition of TWU law school graduates pose the real menace to a free and democratic society.”
The League will write to other provincial law societies on this subject as the need arises.