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Trinity Western University announces legal action over law school rejection

Trinity Western announced it is going to court over rejection of its law school. - File photo
Trinity Western announced it is going to court over rejection of its law school.
— image credit: File photo

Trinity Western University has announced it will take legal action against opponents of its new law school.

The Langley-based private Christian university issued a statement on Tuesday that it will be going to court in B.C. Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

TWU said it will be seeking court orders overturning decisions by the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) and the Nova Scotia Barristers Society (NSBS) that would prevent Trinity law school graduates from practicing law in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

The university said it will also apply to present arguments in the B.C. court application by Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby to overturn the December 2013 approval of the law school by the B.C. government.

At issue is a clause forbidding "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman." in the community covenant that all staff and students at the university are expected to abide by.

Critics say the clause is anti-gay and conflicts with a lawyer's responsibility to uphold the rights and freedoms of all persons.

The TWU press release said the issue is one of religious freedom.

“The decisions in Ontario and Nova Scotia impact all people of faith across Canada," said TWU President Bob Kuhn (pictured).

"Their conclusions must be challenged."

Bob KuhnKuhn, an Abbotsford lawyer, won a court battle over the same issue with the B.C. College of Teachers several years before he became president of the university.

The  case involved the College of Teachers refusal to allow the university to assume full responsibility for its teacher training because of the TWU Community Standards at the time had a list of “practices that are biblically condemned” that mentioned “sexual sins including … homosexual behaviour”.

In an eight to one ruling in 2001, the court declared that that TWU “is a private institution that is exempted, in part, from the B.C. human rights legislation and to which the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply.”

The court decision said the university can believe what it wants about gay people so long as it doesn’t actually discriminate against them.

"TWU is now being forced to re-litigate an issue that was decided in its favour," Kuhn said Tuesday.

“The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in the country, comprised of the best legal minds, and their decisions should be respected. In law, their decisions must be respected.”

TWU said it plans to open the new school of law in September of 2016.

Five provinces and one territory have agreed to recognize law degrees from TWU.

However, the approval by the directors of the Law Society of B.C. is being challenged by Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan, who collected more than 1,300 written requests in just over a week, double the number required, to force a special general meeting to reconsider the decision.

The B.C. law society has announced the meeting will be held on June 10 at multiple sites in Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Dawson Creek, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Prince Rupert, Smithers and Terrace, all linked by telephone.

A resolution passed at a general meeting is not binding on law society directors unless one-third of the more than 10,000 lawyers in B.C. have voted and have approved the resolution by a two-thirds majority.

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