Canadian Court: Right to Sodomy Trumps Religious Liberty

A court in Canada has upheld the denial of accreditation to a Christian law school, holding the private school’s prohibition of homosexual behavior is sufficiently discriminatory that its degrees can be invalidated for that reason alone.

Trinity Western University is a 4,000-student, evangelical Protestant college in the Vancouver suburb of Langley. It has been seeking to open a law school, but has struggled to obtain accreditation in several provinces. This difficulty is not based on the school’s academics, but rather is based on outside objections to the covenant the school makes all students and professors sign. The covenant, among other things, forbids all sex other than that within heterosexual marriage, a rule opponents say discriminates against both sodomites and those who do not believe in marriage.

Based on the rule, the Law Society of Upper Canada, which governs bar admission in Ontario, refused to accredit the school, meaning graduates would not be allowed to practice law in the province. Trinity sued, leading to Thursday’s decision.

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In its ruling, the Ontario Superior Court found that the denial of accreditation did violate Trinity’s freedom of religion, but that this violation was acceptable because of the greater good of protecting equality. Trinity tried to argue that its covenant was non-discriminatory, because it only governed behavior rather than beliefs or innate traits, but the court said that explanation wouldn’t fly.

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“Individuals who may not believe in marriage, or LGBTQ persons, may attend (Trinity) but they must first sign the community covenant and thus, in essence, disavow not only their beliefs but, in the case of LGBTQ individuals, their very identity,” the court said. “To assert that that result is not, at its core, discriminatory is to turn a blind eye to the true impact and effect of the community covenant.”

Additionally, the court said the Law Society was within its rights to regulate student conduct agreements at the private university, because of its long history of working to ensure the “meritocracy” and “diversity” of the legal profession.

The court also held that individual evangelical Christians could not claim to have had their freedom violated by the ruling, because they could still attend law school elsewhere.

“There is no evidence before us that the ability of an evangelical Christian to gain a legal education requires that they study at a law school that only permits the presence of evangelical Christian beliefs and only permits the attendance of those persons who commit to those beliefs,” the ruling said.

According to the CBC, Trinity spokesman Guy Saffold warned the decision “points a knife at the freedom of faith communities across Canada to hold and practice their beliefs.”

The ruling is the most recent defeat of many for religious Canadian schools opposed tohomosexuality. For example, several provinces, including Alberta last March, have passed laws making it mandatory for all religious schools to establish official homosexual-straight alliance clubs if a student requests one.


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