The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday that law societies in the country could deny licensing to a proposed Christian law school because the school adheres to Biblical teaching on sexuality.
“We are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Paul Coleman, executive director for ADF International.
“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,” Coleman continued in a June 15 press release.
ADF International, which represented multiple groups in the case, emphasized that religious schools should be granted freedom to operate according to the faith to which they adhere.
The case, which spread across various provinces and has been years in the making, involved Trinity Western University — an evangelical school in Langley which encourages its students to uphold biblical moral teachings on sexuality, reserving sexual relations for marriage between one man and one woman.
Trinity Western had proposed opening a law school in 2012 and was seeking to ensure accreditation, ultimately receiving approval from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education.
However, law societies challenged the merits of the Christian university’s proposed law school and its accreditation, saying its position on sexual morality was discriminatory against the LGBT community.
The Supreme Court heard two appeals from Ontario and British Columbia, after a high court in British Columbia originally said Christian schools could not be denied accreditation merely based on its beliefs about sexual morality.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that law societies could refuse to license graduates from Trinity Western University on the grounds that their views on sexuality are discriminatory to the LGBT community.
Out of the nine justices, two — Russell Brown and Suzanne Cote — ruled in favor of Trinity Western. They cast their decisions based on the view that “legislatively accommodated and Charter-protected religious practices, once exercised, cannot be cited by a state-actor as a reason justifying the exclusion of a religious community from public recognition.”
“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 said.
Trinity Western released a statement on June 15, saying they would be reviewing the ruling and considering next steps.
“We feel this is a lost opportunity for Canadians, many of whom do not have affordable access to justice,” said Earl Philips, executive director of the proposed law school.
“The TWU law school would have offered a specialty in charity law. Because Canada has the second largest charitable and non-profit sector in the world, this loss stands to impact Canadians coast to coast,” Philips continued.