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A Win for LGBTQ Rights and a Loss for Religious Freedom

JUNE 25, 2018

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled by a 7 to 2 count on June 14 that a law society acted reasonably in denying accreditation to the proposed law school at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia because of its policy prohibiting students, faculty, and staff from engaging in sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.  The majority judgment pointed to concerns that TWU's community covenant would deter LGBTQ students or pose a risk of significant harm to those enrolled in the program.  The Court stated that it was in the public interest of the law profession to ensure equal access, support diversity within the bar, and prevent harm to LGBTQ students.  

The five-justice majority found that the decision by the Law Society of Upper Canada to deny accreditation to the proposed law school "represents a proportionate balance between the limitation on freedom of religion guaranteed" by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms "and the statutory objectives that the LSUC sought to pursue."

The legal landscape in Canada differs from that of the United States.  However, the Trinity Western University case addresses the same kinds of tensions between values of nondiscrimination and religious freedom that can be found at many Christian colleges and universities in the U.S. that have similar codes of conduct prohibiting same-sex activity. The leadership of the University said that they will take time to process the judgment before deciding on next steps.

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant
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