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Editorial: Court challenge would be no threat to law school
The provincial government gave Trinity Western University an early Christmas present this month with the decision to approve a new law school at the Langley campus, the first at a faith-based university in Canada.
When Advanced Education minister Amrik Virk made the announcement, he referred to rumours there could be legal action over the the TWU Community Covenant that all staff and students are expected to follow.
The document, viewable online at the TWU website, notes that the private university is part of an “evangelical Protestant tradition” that expects members of the university to “treat all persons with respect and dignity” while following certain principles.
Among the many behaviours that can get a student or staffer in trouble and possibly expelled is “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” which is defined thusly: “according to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman, and within that marriage bond it is God’s intention that it be enjoyed as a means for marital intimacy and procreation.”
Some critics have complained that this amounts to discrimination. The university denies that, saying it has graduated gay students who were able to follow the covenant.
It is not the first time the university has found itself in the spotlight over this particular issue.
The last time, the matter went all the way to the Supreme Court where it ended in a decisive victory for TWU.
The B.C. College of Teachers had balked at allowing the university to assume full responsibility for its teacher training because the TWU Community Standards, applicable to all students, faculty and staff had a list of “practices that are biblically condembed” that mentioned “sexual sins including … homosexual behaviour”.
In an eight to one ruling, the highest court in the land noted 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” and went on to say that the university can believe what it wants about gay people so long as it doesn’t actually discriminate against them.
“Neither freedom of religion nor the guarantee against discrimination based on sexual orientation is absolute,” the court ruled.
“The freedom to hold beliefs is broader than the freedom to act on them. Absent concrete evidence that training teachers at TWU fosters discrimination in the public schools of B.C., the freedom of individuals to adhere to certain religious beliefs while at TWU should be respected.”
That set a precedent that means a court challenge over the law school would be even less likely to succeed.