Civil Liberties for all Canadians are at stake in teacher education certification challenge before the Supreme Court tomorrow

"The Supreme Court should make it clear that public bodies may not
employ discriminatory practices that are contrary to civil liberties and
undermine religious freedom."
Dr. Guy Saffold, TWU Executive Vice President

Ottawa, Ontario - Trinity Western University will appear before the
Supreme Court of Canada tomorrow to argue that public bodies must not
discriminate against Canadians on the grounds of religion. The British
Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) wants to deny accreditation of a
teacher education at the University after twice being ordered
by lower courts to accredit TWU's program. It is now asking the Supreme
Court to overturn those rulings. The British Columbia and the Canadian
Civil Liberties Association will speak against the request, arguing that
the BCCT's actions threaten principles of liberty.

"There is a pivotal principle at stake in this challenge that will
impact the civil liberties of all Canadians," says Guy Saffold, EdD,
TWU's executive vice-president, "Will public regulatory bodies be
permitted to deny certifications, professional licenses and other
benefits on the basis of religious beliefs and to do so even without
producing any evidence of intolerance or unacceptable behavior?"

The hearing at the Supreme Court caps a legal dispute that has been in
the courts for four years. TWU students agree to abide by a community
standards agreement that requires them to refrain from extramarital sex
while attending university, including pre-marital sex, adultery and
homosexual behaviour.

The BCCT's Council overruled the conclusions of its own investigation
teams which recommended approval of the TWU program. The Council
contends that extending approval to the University's program would
create unfavorable "perceptions" and "risks."

Two lower courts have so far upheld TWU's case, finding that there was
ample evidence that TWU-trained teachers function with respect and
consideration in public school classrooms. The B.C. Court of Appeal
ruled that the BCCT has failed to produce even "one bit of evidence" of
intolerance and that its actions, therefore, are "patently
unreasonable." The BCCT agrees that it has no evidence that TWU-trained
teachers are intolerant, but it refuses anyway to grant approval of a
fifth professional year of TWU's teacher education program and continues
to cite concerns of perceptions and risks.

At the heart of the matter is the University's community standards
agreement which all current students sign. The agreement asks students
to love one another, and to show respect for all people regardless of
race or gender and to make a habit of edifying others, showing
compassion, demonstrating unselfishness and displaying patience. It also
requires students to abstain from extra-marital sex including
pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior-a commitment rising
out of the orthodox Christian belief in marriage. The BCCT contends
TWU's prohibition of homosexual behavior might create a risk.

"This pattern of continually raising vague suspicions and stereotypical
perceptions does not represent responsible decision making by a public
body," says Saffold. "Decisions based on unfounded stereotypes are
anathema to our laws and amount to discrimination. Most Canadians find
this kind of thinking prejudicial and offensive."

TWU has been training public school teachers for 15 years, and Saffold
points out that they have taught in B.C. public schools with
distinction. "Our teacher education students are taught to be
compassionate, professional teachers who uphold the dignity and welfare
of every student. These are precisely the kind of teachers our schools
need."

TWU's case has gained wide support, and six groups critical of the
BCCT's decision have been granted intervenor status at the Supreme
Court, including the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian
Civil Liberties Association. The civil liberties groups have both argued
that the BCCT's decisions were flawed and in violation of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Also supporting this position will be
the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship
of Canada, the Christian Legal Fellowship and the Seventh Day Adventist
Church. Two other approved intervening parties, Equality for Gays and
Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) and the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers
Federation (OSSTF), are expected to argue in support of the BCCT's
position.

"Canada is a multicultural land with many diverse communities," says
Saffold. "Trinity Western University believes that Canadian values
require that we treat one another with genuine respect and uphold each
other's basic human dignity while at the same time permitting us liberty
to disagree on issues. There are compelling reasons why our highest
court should make it clear that public bodies must not discriminate
against people who hold their own religious convictions while
demonstrating understanding and respect for the views and dignity of
others."

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately
funded Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling 2,850
students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences
curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major
areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology
and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology,
theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2012-08-21
Author: -