law schools

Do Canadian journalists get the basic religious freedom issues in Trinity Western case?

Do Canadian journalists get the basic religious freedom issues in Trinity Western case?

An evangelical Christian university in British Columbia that has been blocked from starting its own law school got its day in court late last week. What was supposed to be Canada’s first Christian law school has had a lot of delays in getting off the ground because of lawsuits.

Nine judges on Canada’s Supreme Court, meeting in Ottawa, deliberated whether a law school can be accredited because its students must affirm traditional Christian doctrines on sex outside of traditional marriage (thereby excluding sexually active gay students) although, if you read Trinity Western University's covenant carefully, it does not mandate that students be Christian.

The case is known as  Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada and Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia Society.

I wrote about this case a few weeks ago and I thought Canadian media would be full of stories on the hearing -- but that’s not been the case. The Lawyer’s Daily, published by LexisNexis Canada, had the most complete account, which is what I start with here:

Day one of the much-anticipated Trinity Western University (TWU) hearing at the Supreme Court featured tough judicial questions for both sides, but most questions were directed to counsel for the evangelical Christian university which contends British Columbia and Ontario legal regulators shouldn’t have denied it accreditation for its proposed law school.
In the overflowing courtroom jammed with 69 counsel, and dozens of spectators watching on a big screen outside, nine judges probed TWU’s counsel Kevin Boonstra of Kuhn LLP and Robert Staley of Bennett Jones…

For those of you wanting to read this, there is a paywall, but you can get two weeks of it free, which means that all you need do is create a log-on to scan the piece.

Themes explored by the judges, who will also hear from 27 interveners on Dec. 1, included: How broad or narrow is the law societies’ statutory mandate to protect the public interest -- and did the regulators go beyond their jurisdiction by denying accreditation based on TWU’s controversial admissions policy requiring all would-be students, including those who are LGBTQ2, to sign a religious-based code of conduct restricting sexual intimacy to opposite-sex married couples. ...

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Canadian law school case before Supreme Court tests press impartiality -- again

Canadian law school case before Supreme Court tests press impartiality -- again

Far from the maddening crowd of Donald Trump in Asia and Roy Moore in Alabama is a legal battle in Canada involving a private Christian law school that can’t get accredited because the institution affirms two millennia of Christian doctrine forbidding sex outside of marriage.

The matter is so contentious that its case will be heard Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 before the Canadian Supreme Court. Of course, here at GetReligion we are primarily interested in noting whether mainstream journalists are covering both sides of this debate with anything approaching fairness and accuracy.

I’ll have to hopscotch between news accounts to explain the whole thing. The Toronto Globe and Mail describes Trinity Western University thus

The private university, established in 1962, has a "Community Covenant" obliging students to sign a promise not to engage in sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. Law societies in both provinces voted against licensing the graduates, calling the school discriminatory. B.C.'s Court of Appeal overturned one such rejection, while Ontario's top court upheld the other.

Several paragraphs down, you get this:

Two same-sex advocacy groups, Start Proud and OUTlaws, say in a joint filing that the Community Covenant means LGBTQ persons, including married ones, "can never be their authentic selves while attending TWU. … No one should be forced to renounce their dignity and self-respect in order to obtain an education."

This case is a bit of a headspinner for Americans used to the likes of schools such as Brigham Young University and Liberty University, both of which are private schools that have doctrinal covenants forbidding students to sleep around. These –- and many other universities’ –- prohibition against same-sex relationships have caused some to charge them with violating Title IX (which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender stereotypes).

Although many American religious institutions have been granted exemption from Title IX since 2014, that hasn't stopped gay activists from trying to keep BYU out of the Big 12 (football) Conference because of its standards on extramarital sex. My colleague Bobby Ross has written on this

Canada apparently has no similar protections for faith-based schools, leaving them wide open to lawsuits.

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