A Christian university in Canada has decided to eliminate its code of behavior – which had been mandatory – for students after a court ruling that a law society could deny its law-school membership because of the “discrimination” against LGBT students.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in a pair of 7-2 rulings, recent concluded that the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario could refuse accreditation to Trinity Western University’s planned law school because of the community covenant.
As a Christian institution, Trinity Western required students and faculty to abide by biblical boundaries on sexual behavior. The covenant also requires students to abstain from, among other things, fornication, obscene language, harassment, lying, stealing, pornography and drunkenness.
But now the board of governors has reviewed the situation, and issued the following conclusion:
“In furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy, the Community Covenant will no longer be mandatory as of the 2018-19 academic year with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the university.”
It will continue to be mandatory for faculty and staff.
The College Fix reported the covenant had called on students to “observe modesty, purity and appropriate intimacy in all relationships,” that they “reserve sexual expressions of intimacy for marriage,” and that members must refrain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
The school said, “[T]he university will actively work to determine ways in which our Christian identity, mission and ministry can continue to be strengthened, communicated and better lived-out in the context of the TWU community – while simultaneously welcoming and affirming the unique value of each member of our diverse student body.”
The school statement continued, “Let there be no confusion regarding the board of governors’ resolution; our mission remains the same. We will remain a biblically-based, mission-focused, academically excellent University, fully committed to our foundational evangelical Christian principles. We will continue to be a Christ-centered community; one that is defined by our shared pursuit of seeking to glorify God by revealing His truth, compassion, reconciliation and hope to a world in need.”
Inside Higher Ed explained the court’s conclusion earlier was that the law societies were “entitled to conclude that equal access to the legal profession, diversity within the bar, and preventing harm to LGBTQ law students were all within the scope of its duty.”
WND reported at the time Gerald Chipeur of the Canadian firm Miller Thompson LLP, which represented the university, said Canada’s high court “has abandoned the promise of freedom that led to the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 36 years ago.”
“Individuals will need to turn to their legislators to protect freedom of religion,” said Chipeur, who is one of thousands of lawyers allied with Alliance Defending Freedom International.
The law societies of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, the Yukon and Nova Scotia agreed to recognize the school’s graduates.
ADF International said the Supreme Court “dealt a major blow to religious freedom and freedom of association.”
Paul Coleman, the organization’s executive director, contended religious universities and schools “should be free to operate according to the faith they teach and to which they adhere.”
“We are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision,” he said. “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.”
In the minority on the court were Justices Russell Brown and Suzanne Côté, who argued the university can’t be excluded on the basis of practices that are protected by law.
“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,” they wrote.
They argued that approval of Trinity Western’s proposed law school “would not represent a state preference for evangelical Christianity, but rather a recognition of the state’s duty – which [the Law Society of British Columbia] failed to observe – to accommodate diverse religious beliefs without scrutinizing their content.”