A rendering of TWU’s proposed law school.

UPDATED: B.C. Christian university loses fight for law school in Canada’s top court

The court found that the school would have limited access to the legal profession unfairly.

The Supreme Court of Canada has found in favour of the law societies of B.C. and Ontario and against Trinity Western University in a landmark case about religious freedom and civil rights.

“Limiting access to membership in the legal profession on the basis of personal characteristics, unrelated to merit, is inherently inimical to the integrity of the legal profession,” the majority of justices wrote in their decision.

Langley’s TWU, a private Christian university, has been fighting in the courts for years for the right to open a law school on its campus.

However, law societies in B.C. and Ontario challenged its right to educate lawyers because of the faith-based school’s Community Covenant. The Covenant, among other things, bans sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage.

Both law societies withheld TWU’s right to certify new law school graduates.

The case pitted the rights of potential LGBTQ students, or potentially even students in common-law relationships, against the religious freedom of the independent university.

The majority of judges found that the Law Society of B.C. (LSBC) has “an overarching interest in protecting the values of equality and human rights.”

The judges also found that eliminating barriers to legal education would improve the quality of the legal profession.

The judges did take into account the arguments that religious freedom is a right not just for individuals to practice their faith, but to form religious communities.

The case became one of “overlapping Charter protections,” according to the judgment.

The decision suggested that if TWU’s Community Covenant was not mandatory, the law school might have gone ahead.

“Indeed, when the LSBC asked TWU whether it would ‘consider’ amendments to its Covenant, TWU expressed no willingness to compromise on the mandatory nature of the Covenant,” the majority wrote. “The decision therefore only prevents TWU’s community members from attending an approved law school at TWU that is governed by a mandatory covenant.”

The justices wrote that a mandatory covenant was not absolutely required to study law in a Christian learning environment. It only prevents studying in an “optimal” learning environment in which everyone must abide by the covenant.

Overall, the court found that the stakes for TWU students were low.

“Put otherwise, denying someone an option they would merely appreciate certainly falls short of ‘forced apostasy,’” the justices wrote.

On the contrary, it found that harms to LGBTQ students enroling at TWU could be more severe, including harm to dignity and self-confidence, as well as stigmatization and isolation.

“The public confidence in the administration of justice may be undermined by the LSBC’s decision to approve a law school that forces some to deny a crucial component of their identity for three years in order to receive a legal education,” the justices wrote.

Justices Suzanne Coté and Russell Brown dissented from the majority’s decision.

They found that the LSBC only had the right to determine whether law schools would competently educate their students – and that there was no evidence against TWU performing that function.

This was not the first time that TWU has been challenged in the courts due to its Community Covenant. The B.C. College of Teachers challenged TWU’s right to certify teachers, but in the 2001 Supreme Court decision, the justices found for TWU.

There was a key difference between those cases. The College of Teachers argued that TWU grads could bring discrimination into the classrooms where they taught after graduating. In this case, the LSBC was only concerned with its own mandate to avoid discrimination, the majority of judges wrote.

Just Posted

Riggers hosting home tournament this weekend

Riggers looking to round into form heading in playoffs

Westerner Days kicks off this week

Lots to see and do for the whole family

Bucs’ continue to power through AFL

67-0 win over Grand Prairie pushes Bucs’ towards showdown with Ft. Mac

Niek Theelen continues to build his comedian career

Engaging performer is a popular draw across the region

‘Flipping Amazing’ Pancake Breakfast welcomes 6,000 Central Albertans

Westerner Days is, unofficially, underway after Bower Place held their annual Pancake Breakfast.

Riggers hosting home tournament this weekend

Riggers looking to round into form heading in playoffs

A day of deals at Amazon, and at its rivals

Online retail giant extends annual ‘Prime Day’ promotion to 36 hours

Alert B.C. campers raise alarm and avert potential propane disaster

Salmon Arm camper lodges a complaint with Technical Safety BC after motorhome tank is over-filled.

Bucs’ continue to power through AFL

67-0 win over Grand Prairie pushes Bucs’ towards showdown with Ft. Mac

UPDATED: Putin says he wanted Trump to win in 2016, didn’t interfere

The two leaders arrived Monday at Helsinki’s presidential palace for a long-awaited summit

In TV interview, Trump claims queen called Brexit ‘complex’

Asked the queen’s view on Brexit, Trump said: “She said it’s a very complex problem.”

Exotic corpse flower begins to emit its putrid scent at Vancouver conservatory

A unique and exotic tropical plant, acclaimed for its size and abhorred for its smell, is blooming at a Vancouver conservatory.

CREA reports June home sales down 10.7% from year ago, but up from May

The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in June were down 10.7 per cent compared with a year ago.

Most Read