The BC Supreme Court has overturned the Law Society of BC's decision to deny accreditation to a proposed law school at Trinity Western University, an evangelical private university. The Court ruled yesterday that the Law Society made procedural errors in making its final decision.
TWU requires its students and faculty to sign a community covenant that prohibits sex outside a heterosexual marriage, thereby excluding gay and lesbian students, as well as non-Christians. The covenant also restricts reproductive rights. Students and faculty risk expulsion for violating these rules.
The Law Society's board granted initial approval to the law school in April 2014 but a member-wide referendum reversed that approval. The ruling overturns the referendum and restores the Law Society's initial approval. TWU's law school is also facing legal challenges in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
This is a setback for human rights. Public bodies should not be in the business of legitimizing discrimination against members of the LGBT community, women and atheists. It's good to see practising lawyers overwhelmingly reject this notion and support equality. This is not the end of the story and we will continue to stand against religious-based bigotry.
For more information, see coverage from CBC and the Vancouver Sun, the release from West Coast LEAF and read the ruling: Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia.
The BC Humanist Association is considering intervening in future appeals on this case. Donate to support our work.
On January 5, 2016, the Law Society of BC filed an appeal of this decision. The Law Society argues that it made the right decision when it decided to reject Trinity Western University's law school.
Law Society President David Crossin, QC:
We respectfully maintain that it was proper for the Benchers to conclude that the voice of our members is important and that we should be guided by that voice on this issue. In addition, the circumstances surrounding the proposal for a law school at TWU raise issues regarding two competing Charter rights and values: the equality rights of the LGBTQ community and the position taken by TWU concerning religious freedom. The Law Society believes the interests of the public and our profession are best served by our appellate court addressing and resolving this fundamental constitutional issue.