Trinity Western University (TWU) has earned a reputation as a top-notch academic institution founded on Christian beliefs — but to found its own law school it will have to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to defend its academic and religious freedom.
The court will hear two appeals that wish to deny the Christian university any basis to start its law school because Trinity has a code of conduct for all students to abstain from behavior that is contrary to biblical injunctions — including sex outside of traditional marriage.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada for more than a decade but is strongly rejected by evangelicals who believe it is contrary to biblical edicts on sexuality.
The university has already won an appeal last November when it successfully overturned a decision by the British Columbia Law Society to refuse to accredit law school graduates from Trinity.
In British Columbia, however, the university scored a victory in November when an appeal court overturned that province’s law society’s refusal to accredit the school’s law graduates.
It has also faced hostility from the law societies in the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia for its code of conduct, known as a “community covenant” at the university, that proscribes obscene language, harassment, lying, stealing, pornography, drunkenness and sexual relations “that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
TWU has maintained its right as a Christian-focused academic center to provide an environment that is both supported by the student body of 4,000 and conducive to their beliefs.
Critics say the code discriminates against any prospective LGBTQ students who might want to attend a conservative, evangelical law school.
But the university has always maintained that anyone identifying as LGBTQ is welcome to attend the college — so long as they do not violate the code.
The university expressed optimism last Thursday upon hearing the news that the supreme court would assess the ongoing issue of religious freedom at the university.
“We believe that the court will protect the TWU religious community,” university president Bob Kuhn said in a statement, adding that most provinces in Canada already accept the proposed law school as “a positive step that increases the number of law school spaces in Canada.”