The Supreme Court of Canada will soon make a ruling on the controversial Trinity Western University case. Trinity Western first attracted attention in 2014, when the university proposed to open a law school, and British Columbia’s law society denied them accreditation.
The grounds for the denial? The Christian university’s student covenant that requires students to abstain from all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. The covenant also asks students to abstain from cheating on exams, gossiping, drunkenness, drug-taking, pornography use and the like. However, the law society focused its attention specifically on the clause about sexual activity, ignored the impact it would have on unmarried heterosexual students, and stated that this was discriminatory to LGBT students.
The law society also ignored the simple fact that no one is forced to attend Trinity Western University; students who seek to study in a particular environment governed by a Christian ethos do so, for the specific reason that the community is a Christian one. There are many law schools in Canada, and the opening up of a small number of additional places at a Christian college does not reduce the places available; indeed, it leaves additional places at other colleges for students who do not want to live by the Trinity Western covenant.
The university has never expelled any students belonging to the LGBT community; the complaint in this case comes not from students or potential students, but from the accrediting body.
The case was heard by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2016, which found the denial of accreditation to be unreasonable. However, the law society decided to appeal the ruling, and the case was heard on 30 November and 1 December before the Supreme Court of Canada. The university, and indeed the country, awaits the decision, because it will determine whether, if at all, Canada is committed to freedom of belief and association.
Trinity Western emphasised the importance of the case in regards to these freedoms, stating on their website:
The court will be asked to once again emphasize the importance of those freedoms to supporting a thriving democracy and a vibrant diversity. This promises to be one of the most significant Supreme Court of Canada cases in a generation.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court of Canada will uphold the ruling made by the BC Court of Appeal, but even if they do, Trinity Western is still set back four years from their original opening date. The earliest the law school will be able to open is fall of 2019.
The hearing took place on Thursday, 30 November and Friday, 1 December. The final ruling is yet to be determined.