It is slated to be Canada's first Christian law school, but a new challenge facing the School of Law at Trinity Western University over its stance on homosexuality could call its future into question.
British Columbia officially became the third province to reject Trinity Western's plans to launch a faith-based law school last week, with the Law Society of British Columbia reversing its previous decision to officially recognize graduates of the institution.
"Trinity Western is open and welcoming to all, and places a high importance on respect and care for everyone in our community," university spokesperson Guy Saffold said in a statement. "In line with our mission and values, TWU’s new law school will focus on developing leaders to serve those who are currently underserved and vulnerable — that means educating lawyers to work in rural communities and the not-for-profit sector."
Trinity Western's traditional view on homosexuality is at the center of critics' opposition, as students at the school must sign a document that affirms relationships should be confined to one man and one woman, as CBC reported.
While the college was founded in 1962, the associated law school was slated to open in 2016.
School of Law at Trinity Western University
Law societies in the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia had already voted against recognizing graduates of the institution, making it uncertain if the law school will be able to officially open in two years as originally planned.
Of the British Columbia Law Society's 13,530 members, more than 8,000 sided against the university, overturning a decision earlier in the year to accredit the School of Law at Trinity Western University. The law society's board voted 25 to one to affirm the views of those opposed.
"They had to choose between the principles upon which they made the initial decision and the popularity of that decision among lawyers in the province," Trinity Western president Bob Kuhn told CBC. "We're disappointed of course they chose the latter. But that's the reality of people in an elected position."
TheBlaze first reported about issues facing Trinity Western's law school in September, noting that the school has faced an uphill battle.
That said, the university was approved for accreditation by bar associations in Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut.
Trinity Western is already suing to fight back against the decisions in Ontario and Nova Scotia, though it is unclear whether the same action will be taken on the British Columbia decision.
The university’s community covenant — the document at the center of the debate — 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.
(H/T: The Friendly Atheist)