The Biblical Stance That Has Canada’s First Christian Law School Locked in a Major Debate Over Gay Rights

A plethora of debate continues to rage surrounding a proposed Canadian law school’s mandatory requirement that students and faculty sign a pledge affirming that they will not enter into same-sex relationships.

While the council of the Law Society of New Brunswick, the province’s independent legal body, decided in June to offer accreditation to the School of Law at Trinity Western University, an opposing resolution was passed by members Saturday, asking that the decision be overturned.

The nonbinding resolution passed 137 to 30, according to a press release from Trinity Western University, which is planning to open Canada’s first Christian law school in 2016.

The results of the resolution will be presented and discussed at a September 26 meeting of the law society’s council. If the resolution is adopted, it would have sweeping ramifications, banning graduates of the law school from being eligible to be admitted to the bar in New Brunswick, CBC News reported.

School of Law
School of Law at Trinity Western University

Officials at the college are dismayed over the vote, with spokesperson Dr. Guy Saffold saying that it goes against the notions of diversity and religious freedom.

“It is disappointing that a resolution would pass that would compromise Canada’s commitment to freedoms of conscience, religion, belief, expression and association,” he said in a statement. “Any move to marginalize the millions of Canadian citizens of diverse faiths who share a common understanding of marriage suggests development of a very dangerous trend.”

The university’s press release also noted that the law school’s application has already been approved by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education.

But Trinity Western University has faced somewhat of an uphill battle. While the institution was approved for accreditation by bar associations in British Columbia, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut, the governing bodies in Ontario and Nova Scotia decided against accreditation, according to CBC News.

Trinity Western University is suing to fight back against these latter decisions and separate reviews are scheduled in December in the respective provinces.

Daphne Dumont, the former president of the Canadian Bar Association, expressed her opposition to the Christian law school, speaking out against the pledge students must sign.

“The Canadian Bar Association is saying that’s not a good model to train lawyers,” she told CBC News. “One of the curriculum elements being the operation of the Charter of Rights in Canada, where we have said that gay marriage is to be accepted.”

A gay campaigner waves the rainbow flag during a rally outside the Houses of Parliament as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill gets an unopposed third reading by the Lords in central London on July 15, 2013. Gay marriage was set to be legalised in England and Wales after the controversial Bill introducing it cleared the Lords today. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Trinity Western University’s community covenant makes it clear that biblical relationships remain confined to one man and one woman.

“According to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman, and within that marriage bond it is God’s intention that it be enjoyed as a means for marital intimacy and procreation,” it reads. “Honouring and upholding these principles, members of the TWU community strive for purity of thought and relationship, respectful modesty, personal responsibility for actions taken, and avoidance of contexts where temptation to compromise would be particularly strong.”

On one side there are those who argue that religious freedom is paramount and that the university and its students should be free to uphold religious convictions in the covenant.

On the other, though, are critics who claim that the agreement students are required to sign would preclude gays and lesbians from studying at the school and would, thus, violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the nation’s bill of rights.

Observers say its likely the nation’s Supreme Court will eventually settle the case.

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