Christian law school loses religious freedom fight at Canadian Supreme Court

Originally published in The Catholic Herald

The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that law societies can refuse to give accreditation to a proposed Christian law school over claims that it discriminates against LGBT people.

Students at the evangelical Trinity Western University must agree to abstain from sexual activity outside marriage – which the Supreme Court ruled was discriminatory.

Trinity Western had proposed opening a law school in 2012 and sought accreditation. They received it from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education, but law societies saw Trinity Western’s views on sexuality as discriminatory against the LGBT population.

A high court in British Columbia ruled that Christian schools could not be denied accreditation due to their beliefs. Two groups from Ontario and British Columbia appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that law societies can refuse to license graduates from Trinity Western.

Russell Brown and Suzanne Cote were the only two justices who ruled in favour of the law school.

Approval of [Trinity Western University’s] proposed law school would not represent a state preference for evangelical Christianity, but rather a recognition of the state’s duty… to accommodate diverse religious beliefs without scrutinizing their content,” the justices wrote in their dissent.

ADF International, who represented multiple groups in the case, argued that religious institutions should be allowed to adhere to their own beliefs.

We are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Paul Coleman, the group’s executive director. “Freedom of religion and association is not only essential for faith-based organizations, but for the functioning of democracy itself. Following this ruling, that vital freedom is now in jeopardy.”

Trinity Western released a statement on June 15 saying they will be considering how to move forward in light of the ruling.

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