ance programs, then virtually all Christian
postsecondary institutions would be hurt
financially. Questions about Christian
elementary and secondary school requirements could follow (Loyola High School,
Given these possibilities the Christian
educational community and Christian
community in general, as well as all those
who value the freedoms associated with
Canada’s pluralistic and democratic society, would do well to rally around TWU
and the issue its law school represents.
While this issue should also lead us to reflect on the ethos and practice on our campuses as we seek to enfold into our communities those who struggle with sexual
and other issues, more importantly it is a
strategic opportunity to make the case, not
so much for Christian morality, but for the
freedoms essential to a democratic society.
To see the religious freedom of Chris-
tian academic institutions curtailed will
move us more into the realm of systemic
persecution, at least in certain professions
(interesting how TWU’s nursing school has
not had similar difficulties), and possibly
more widely. If such freedom were also re-
stricted for other Christian organizations
and churches, the consequences would
be even more fundamental and extensive.
May God grant us wisdom and courage to
be faithful in these challenging times. FT
JUSTIn COOPeR of hamilton, Ont.,
is executive director of Christian
higher education Canada, an
association of three dozen Christian
The legal questions being raised about the proposed TWU law school are simply rehashing issues that have been settled by the supreme Court of Canada and
Public questions by regular Canadians are understandable, but lawyers (for example, the provincial law societies
conducting their own reviews to determine whether to admit
graduates of the T WU law school to practise law in their jurisdictions) should know better.
here’s a quick summary of how these issues have been
decided in the past, clearly in TWU’s favour.
Most of the concerns about the establishment of a Christian law school were previously raised about T WU’s development of a Christian teachers college. Legal objections reached
the supreme Court of Canada in the 2001 case Trinity Western
University v. British Columbia College of Teachers.
That supreme Court decision applied the balancing
principle it established in a 1994 case, Dagenais v. CBC –
when two protected rights come into conflict, a balance that
respects both rights is necessary (rather than ranking one
ahead of the other).
Among other things, the court concluded that:
• If TWU’s community standards could justify denying
accreditation, there would be little to prevent denying ac-
creditation to members of a church with similar standards.
• A diversity of views in Canada should be respected. (para.
• Freedom of religion, conscience and association coexist
with the right to be free of discrimination based on sexual
orientation. (para. 34)
• It would be contradictory to conclude private institutions
are protected if their graduates were simultaneously considered unworthy of fully participating in public activities.
• There is nothing in the TWU Community Standards that
indicates graduates will not treat homosexuals fairly and
respectfully. Graduates from the T WU teacher education
program (operated jointly with simon Fraser University)
have become competent public school teachers, and there
is no evidence before this Court of discriminatory conduct
by any graduate. (para. 35)
• It would be contradictory to say students have freedom
of religion if exercising their beliefs meant they would be
denied the right of full participation in society. (para. 35)
These conclusions readily also apply to a law school. no one
has suggested valid legal reasons why they would not apply.
In 2004 the Court applied the balancing principle in
Reference re Same-Sex Marriage.
Taking the Court’s advice in the reference, Parliament
spelled out in the Civil Marriage Act that there should not be
discrimination against an individual or group on the basis of
holding an opinion on marriage that differs from the legal definition in the Act, including opinion founded in religious belief.
The preamble reiterates “the freedom of members of religious
groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”
The body of the Act includes similar guarantees.
In the light of these legal precedents, many of the same
issues were reconsidered by the two accrediting bodies that
granted permission for the new law school last December,
namely the Federation of Law societies of Canada and the
British Columbia Ministry of Advanced education.
now the issues are again being reconsidered by several
Canadian provincial law societies.
Looking at the big picture, it should be clear to all involved
that the challenges to the TWU proposal are an appeal to
emotion, not an appeal to law. FT
THe Cen TRe FOR FAITH AnD PUBLIC LIFe promotes
biblical principles, from an evangelical perspective, on
matters of law and public policy. It was founded in Ottawa
by The evangelical Fellowship of Canada in 1996.
Legal Precedents Support TWU
By Staff at the EFC Centre for Faith and Public Life