July 11/25, 2016

Religious freedom advocates are troubled by a June 19 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling upholding the Law Society of Upper Canada's refusal to accredit the proposed law school at Trinity Western University (TWU).

The appeal court ruled that although the law society's decision infringed on the right to religious freedom, that discrimination was justified.

The Ontario law society, like those in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, said it would not allow graduates of the school to come to the bar because of TWU's Community Covenant, which requires faculty and students to agree not to engage in sexual activity outside of traditional marriage.

The law societies have deemed this to be discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. TWU has won lower court victories in both British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

TWU's proposed law school has been accredited by the law societies in other provinces.

The law society "should not discriminate against minority Christian groups simply because their faith commitments may be unpopular," said legal counsel André Schutten.

"To find that religious freedom was infringed, as the court did, but then to rule that the infringement was justified despite evidence that the infringement was not necessary, is very troubling," said Schutten who represented the Association for Reformed Political Action Canada in the case.

Trinity Western said it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"This isn't just a loss for TWU," said university spokesperson Amy Robertson. "This is a loss for all Canadians.

"Freedom of conscience and religion is the first of the fundamental freedoms mentioned in the charter," Robertson said.

"The Community Covenant is a core part of defining the TWU community as distinctly Christian," she said.

"We are not making a statement about LGBTQ people; we are making a statement about traditional Christian marriage, which is sacred to us.

"The same covenant calls for all members of the TWU community to respect the dignity of others regardless of their background."