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Trinity Western University law school proponents fire back at critics

Opposition to Trinity Western University’s proposal to create a law school is mounting, with most of it coming from law students and some deans of law faculties at publicly-funded universities.

TWU doesn’t preclude gay or lesbian students and homosexuals do attend the private-Christian school, said Janet Epp Buckingham, who has spearheaded bringing a law school to TWU. This criticism has been coming from some law professors.

The proposal is for a small law school with a focus on professionalism, ethics, skills training and specializations in charities law and entrepreneur law.

If it is approved by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, it would be the first Christian-based law school in Canada. Trinity submitted a proposal last June and if approved, the law school would open in 2015.

TWU has a covenant all students have to sign and includes abstaining from pre-marital sex, consuming alcohol on campus an viewing pornography. It also says the Bible reserves marriage between a man and woman.

And it is the university’s belief about marriage that is causing a stir with law students and some law deans across the country.

The Council of Canadian Law Deans has condemned the law school proposal and more than 1,000 law students across Canada, including some  at UBC, have signed a petition against it.

TWU has already been down this road and won a Supreme Court judgement over its plans to start a teacher training program.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the B.C. College of Teachers, which had sought to deny accreditation of TWU’s teaching program on the basis that it discriminated against gay students. TWU won on its Charter right of freedom of religion. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has come out in support of TWU because of that same Charter right.

“The Supreme Court of Canada was clear in the 2001 decision on the School of Education. It seems unthinkable that the legal profession would make a decision opposing the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Epp Buckingham.

Buckingham said the university’s 50 years of operation, and A+ rating, speaks for itself on the calibre of school it would put together.

“Lawyers are the butt of many jokes — usually relating to lack of ethics. Yet lawyers advise people at some of the most challenging times of their lives,” she said.

“We would like to produce graduates that can be trusted legal advisors and advocates. The program is unique in including skills like client relations and law office management, skills graduates will need as lawyers. As a faith-based university, it also integrates Christian principles like justice, compassion and humility in the curriculum.”

The school is hoping it doesn’t come back to a court challenge. It also doesn’t have a timeline on when the Federation of Law Societies

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