Trinity Western University Law School receives positive ruling from Nova Scotia
Trinity Western University welcomes the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal’s decision today. The court has confirmed that TWU’s proposed School of Law will produce well-trained, ethical graduates who are ready to seek admission to the bar in Nova Scotia.
“Our teachers, nurses and business graduates in particular are sought after for their compassion, integrity, training, and skill,” said Earl Phillips, the executive director of TWU’s proposed School of Law. “I look forward to seeing the extraordinary difference that graduates of TWU’s School of Law will make.”
The court ruled that rejecting TWU graduates on the basis of the school’s admissions policy is beyond the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society’s authority. The court determined it did not need to address Charter of Rightsand Freedoms issues, effectively upholding Justice Jamie Campbell’s original decision, which was a clear endorsement of freedom. "Allowing the NSBS’s decision to stand would have a chilling effect on the liberty of conscience and freedom of religion,” Justice Campbell wrote.
“Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom upheld in the Charter,” says Amy Robertson, a university spokesperson. “As Canadians, we are profoundly privileged to be part of diverse, pluralistic society, committed to respecting one another even when we disagree. Many countries don’t enjoy this privilege. Everyone, religious or not, should celebrate this decision, which amounts to a protection of our freedom and our identity.”
The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society refused to recognize graduates of TWU’s proposed School of Law after a vote in 2014. Justice Jamie Campbell ruled in January 2015 that they must recognize TWU grads. The society appealed, and the court’s decision was issued today.
The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society challenged TWU’s Community Covenant, which asks students to live according to Christian values, including integrity, honesty and care. It also asks students to abstain from sexual intimacy outside of marriage, which it defines as between a man and a woman.
“The Community Covenant is a core part of defining the TWU community as distinctly Christian,” said Robertson. “We are not making a statement about LGBTQ people; we are making a statement about traditional Christian marriage, which is sacred to us. The same covenant calls for all members of the TWU community to respect the dignity of others regardless of their background. Loving one another without exception is one of the most important principles of the Christian faith.”
All students, including LGBTQ students, are welcome to attend the university and be open about their identities. “LGBTQ students do attend TWU, and they find it a safe, welcoming place to be,” says Robertson.
TWU received a negative ruling from the Ontario Court of Appeal last month. It is still awaiting a Court of Appeal decision in B.C., where the law society has also said it will not recognize graduates of TWU’s proposed School of Law. Ultimately, the university expects this matter to go before the Supreme Court of Canada.