TWU submits its legal defense on way to the Supreme Court

"On June 29, 1996, the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) denied the application of Trinity Western University for certification of its teacher education program without evidence and in a manner that exceeded its jurisdiction. The BCCT discriminated against TWU and the members of its community. It has attempted to justify its decision on the basis of stereotypical presumptions concerning TWU, the members of its community and its graduates."
Excerpt from TWU’s legal argument

Langley, British Columbia—Trinity Western University’s (TWU) legal challenge concerning certification of its teacher education program is getting closer to final hearing by the Supreme Court of Canada. TWU’s legal team has now completed and filed with the Supreme Court of Canada its legal response to the appeal arguments submitted by the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT). And it is expected that the Court will soon announce a date for oral arguments in Ottawa, likely in late fall or early 2001.

Trinity Western’s case is summarized in its "Respondent's Factum,” which can be found at http://www.twu.ca/challenge. Its arguments articulate and defend vital religious freedom and civil liberty principles upon which the nine high court justices will make a final ruling, and from which the University believes broad implications will flow for Christians and all Canadians.

The case was initially heard in the B.C. Supreme Court in 1996, and in the B.C. Court of Appeal in 1998. After losing at both levels, the BCCT appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada in January 1999. The BCCT maintains that it should have the right to deny approval to the certification year of TWU's teacher education program solely on the basis of disagreement with the University's religious beliefs. It has said that current students who sign a Community Standards document requiring them, among other things, to refrain from extramarital sex including premarital sex, adultery and homosexual behaviour, may be intolerant of gay students in the public classroom. However, the BCCT has not filed any evidence to support this claim.

Trinity Western’s factum outlines the errors made by the BCCT in its decision and arguments, and the dangerous implications of those errors for all Canadians. The following are key points and excerpts from TWU’s factum:

A. The BCCT decided issues outside of its statutory mandate
"...The BCCT was not created to render judgement on the acceptability of religious beliefs. Neither was it created to enforce human rights legislation in an attempt to eradicate perceived discrimination or unilaterally undertake the protection of minorities....The 'public interest' [referred to in the Act that established the BCCT, the professional teachers regulatory body] relates to establishing standards for the purpose of ensuring teachers are properly trained, competent and of good character.

B. The BCCT did not properly consider Charter and Human Rights values
"...If, in the alternative, the BCCT was correct in undertaking a review of the Charter and human rights values, it did so incorrectly by failing to recognize all such values which include the freedom of religion, expression and association...The process of considering and balancing competing Charter rights and human rights is difficult and complex. The BCCT failed to undertake this process. It purported to see what it thought were 'discriminatory practices' and denied TWU's application without any appropriate analysis."

C. The BCCT did not recognize the Legislature has affirmed the value of TWU
"...The B.C. Legislature mandates TWU to provide education and grant baccalaureate and graduate degrees with a Christian philosophy and viewpoint and therefore preserves and validates TWU's place in the educational community as being in the public interest. Obviously, the Legislature....does not view TWU as contrary to fundamental Canadian values."

D. The BCCT's decision is discriminatory because it is based solely on a perception of TWU graduates
"...if the concern was simply was simply that such "belief systems" MAY be perceived as not upholding Canadian societal values....it was inappropriate and offensive for the BCCT to deny TWU's application on that basis...Decisions based upon possible perceptions are an anathema to our law and society...Stereotypes are prejudices based on perceptions of individuals belonging to a group and violate human dignity."

"It would quite clearly be improper for the BCCT to question individual applicants for membership as to their religious and/or moral views on homosexual behaviour. It is, therefore, also improper for the BCCT to deny TWU a teacher education program based on disapproval of the religious beliefs underlying the Community Standards."

E. The BCCT has no evidence to support its decision
"The BCCT fails to recognize the critical point that, despite the careful studies of TWU's proposed program [by two BCCT evaluation teams], it had no evidence before it capable of supporting its decision. The BCCT can only cite rhetorical questions concerning TWU graduates...Suspicions, questions, assumptions and perceptions are not evidence and decisions based on them should be anathema to both an administrative tribunal and a reviewing Court."

Following the submission of TWU's factum, eight groups that have been granted official intervenor status must now complete their factums and submit them by June 19. Within a month or two following these last submissions it is expected that the Supreme Court will announce a date for oral arguments in the nation's capital, Ottawa. The hearing date may be in late fall or early 2001.

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling 2,763 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
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