The question of whether to accredit Trinity Western University’s planned law school is one which has garnered a lot of attention in legal circles. The attention is now shifting to the British Columbia Supreme Court which began hearing a judicial review application earlier this week. The application is to challenge the Law Society of BC’s decision to deny accreditation of a law school. The denial of accreditation followed a referendum by the law society in which lawyers in BC were asked whether accreditation should be given. 74% voted for a resolution that would deny TWU law school graduates accreditation to practice in the province.
The issue centers around TWU’s covenant that all students must sign. That covenant states among other things that students will “refrain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”. Those in opposition to accreditation argue that the covenant and the consequences of breach of the covenant, are discriminatory to the LGBQT community. Any student not agreeing with the covenant would not be eligible to attend the University’s Law School if it were accredited.The University argued that a failure to accredit it amounts to religious discrimination. Three provinces have denied the University Accreditation – Ontario, New Brunswick and BC.
West Coast Leaf is intervening in the court case, arguing that TWU’s community Covenant violates the Charter’s equality provisions because it discriminates against prospective students and staff on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status because it prohibits all sexual relationships that are not heterosexual and between married persons and on the basis of sex because it penalizes female students for exercising their right to choose abortion.
This case provides an important opportunity for the court to balance equality rights against religious freedoms. It will be a difficult decision for the judge hearing the case and I will not be surprised to see this case work its way through our appellate courts.