Editor’s Note: Bruce Clemenger’s recent message to PSALT at the “Thriving in Babylon Conference” tied the outcome of this legal case to the church, because it sheds light on the question of the right of religious individuals to have freedom of conscience and action in the matter of performing same-sex marriages, in spite of the legal research and assurances that we recently received at the 2018 General Assembly.
Last Friday, June 15, the Supreme Court released its decision in the Trinity Western University (TWU) case. In a complex split ruling, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Law Societies of BC and Ontario not to approve TWU’s proposed law school. Although the Justices acknowledged that the Court’s decision infringes upon Charter protected religious freedoms, the majority decision ruled that restriction was reasonable given the mandate of law societies in serving the public interest and providing open access to legal education. A core issue was TWU’s community covenant that all students are required to sign and that included the restriction of sexual intimacy to married heterosexual couples.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada responded to today’s court decision. “This is a sad day,” said Bruce J. Clemenger, President of the EFC. “While the Court affirmed individual religious freedom and its expression, and did not oppose the idea of a TWU law school, we are deeply concerned that the infringement of Charter freedoms was deemed reasonable, in this case. In a society of deep pluralism, there must be room for a Christian university to remain faithful to its purposes and contribute to the public good.”
We affirm the dissenting opinion of Justices Brown and Côté which states: “The decision not to approve TWU’s proposed law faculty because of the restrictions contained in the Covenant — a code of conduct protected by provincial human rights legislation — is a profound interference with religious freedom, and is contrary to the state’s duty of religious neutrality.”
The EFC intervened in this case along with Christian Higher Education Canada (CHEC), an association of Christian higher education institutions. TWU is an affiliate of the EFC and a member of CHEC.
The EFC and CHEC had argued that the refusal of several law societies to accredit TWU’s proposed law school violated TWU’s Charter protected religious freedom.
“We will continue to seek a robust pluralism that includes the participation of religious institutions and communities in public life, that promotes respect and tolerance of all including religious minorities, and affirms the contributions of religious institutions and communities to our society,” said Clemenger.
EFC Webinar on the TWU Decision
How does the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision about the proposed law school at Trinity Western University impact religious freedom and the future of education in Christian schools in Canada? Join us for our webinar on Wednesday, June 27 at noon EDT. Registration is free online. We invite you to send us your top questions that you would like us to address in the webinar. Our expert guests will share their thoughts, and then we will field your questions live. Webinar Guests: Bruce J. Clemenger (President, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada); Albertos Polizogopoulos (Legal Co-Counsel for the EFC); Justin Cooper (Executive Director of Christian Higher Education Canada).