BC Court of Appeal ruling a setback for equality

In a unanimous decision released today, the BC Court of Appeal sided with Trinity Western University over the Law Society of BC.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the BC Supreme Court that the steps taken by the Law Society of BC’s to reject TWU’s proposed law school were flawed. The appeal court went further by declaring that TWU’s religious freedoms outweighed the discrimination against LGBTQ law students would face.

TWU excludes LGBTQ students by requiring all students to sign a Community Covenant that forbids sex outside a heterosexual marriage and abortion.

In June, the BC Humanist Association and Canadian Secular Alliance argued in a co-intervention that religious freedom doesn’t protect the creation of a secular law school. We further argued that the Community Covenant coerces TWU students into following a narrow Evangelical Christian worldview, when TWU, by its own admission, welcomes students of all faiths and none.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director of the BC Humanist Association responds:

We’re utterly disappointed by today’s decision. It represents a shockingly outdated view of the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community. Where the Ontario Court of Appeal said the Community Covenant "is deeply discriminatory to the LGBTQ community, and it hurts," the BC Court of Appeal trivializes the discrimination as "minimal impact."

The court also uncritically adopted the arguments of TWU and its intervenors that exercising such discrimination through their admissions policy was a core component of their religious beliefs and thus protected by the Charter.

We argued that the court should take a skeptical look at what limits should be put on freedom of religion and to consider the rights of the non-Evangelical students who choose to study at TWU. We had hoped the justices would engage with our arguments; unfortunately, they chose not to.

We are now faced with conflicting decisions in two of Canada’s largest provinces’ highest courts. This will ultimately have to be resolved at the Supreme Court of Canada, where we’re hopeful that secular and progressive values will win the day.

More responses:

Human rights is the real loser in today's ruling - West Coast LEAF

Sign up to receive updates from the BC Humanist Association

Created with NationBuilder Creative Commons License