Freedom of association rejected by Supreme Court of Canada in Trinity Western ruling

Posted on Jun 15, 2018 in Justice Update, Latest Updates, News Releases

On June 15, the Justice Centre expressed its disappointment with the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in the four-year legal dispute between Trinity Western University (TWU) and the Law Societies of British Columbia and Ontario. The Justice Centre had intervened in the TWU court actions in BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

You know a court ruling is bad when judges deliberately ignore the evidence placed before them. But reality was brushed aside in the Supreme Court’s decision to repudiate, nullify and revoke the fundamental Charter freedoms of Trinity Western University (TWU), its staff, and its students.

Charter-protected freedom of religion was narrowed only to what a religion “absolutely requires,” not to mere “preferences.” As the Bible does not expressly command Christians to start law schools there is, the Court said, no need for a government body like a Law Society to respect the mere “preference” of TWU students and staff for a religious university with a Christian code of conduct.

In refusing it accreditation to TWU’s proposed law school, the Law Societies of Ontario and BC freely admitted this school would meet all academic requirements and professional standards. The problem was solely TWU’s Community Covenant.

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled correctly that TWU is not for everybody, but only those who voluntarily choose a Christian law school centered in a community that determines its own code of conduct. Those who wish to get drunk, view pornography, use profane language, gossip, lie, cheat, have sex outside the marriage of one man and one woman, use marijuana, or use tobacco on campus, are free to attend university elsewhere. The vast majority of young Canadians, straight or gay, would never choose to attend such a university.  The Court’s claim that gay people are deterred from studying at TWU ignores the fact that straight people are also deterred.

Gay TWU graduates have sworn under oath in court-filed affidavits that TWU is a caring, supportive environment for those who experience same-sex attraction, and a safe place to come out as gay. The court ignores the reality that gays, like Muslims, atheists, Christians and others are welcome to study at TWU if they are willing to abide by TWU’s rules.

Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin complains bitterly about the grave injustice of the hypothetical gay couple having to forego sex while attending TWU, while male husbands and female wives (just to be clear, because it’s 2018) can indulge their passions. TWU’s Covenant is a sin crying out to heaven for vengeance, in the theology of the Court’s 7:2 majority. But let’s get real.

It’s not obvious why one or both members of a same-sex couple, legally married under Canadian law, would wish to study law (or teaching, nursing, theology, or anything else) at a conservative evangelical Christian university. But even if they did, a free country would allow citizens to create private associations with their own beliefs, goals, mission and rules.

Vancouver’s gay soccer league, Out for Kicks, would likely not welcome Bill Whatcott unless he agreed to refrain from sharing his opinions about homosexuality. It’s safe to assume that the Turkish Society of Canada would not welcome Armenians who insist on raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide during the First World War. A women-only gym rejects male members (unless ordered by a Human Rights Commission to accept a man who identifies as a woman, again violating freedom of association). And a synagogue would not admit professed Nazis.

The Supreme Court sees TWU as a coercive government entity that imposes its will on unwilling participants. The opposite is true: the only party bound by the Charter is the Law Society. Yet our highest Court now claims that TWU “imposes” religious beliefs and practices on non-Christians who voluntarily choose to study at TWU.

The Supreme Court hurls accusations against TWU that are as baseless as they are vitriolic. Supposedly TWU’s Covenant harms the quality of legal services available to the public, violates essential human dignity and freedom, harms LGBTQ individuals, raises inequitable barriers to entering the legal profession, lowers the competence of the bar, provides a harmful learning environment, and is contrary to the public interest.

It is both sad and terrifying that the Court’s majority seems to lack a basic understanding Canada as a free society. Canadians’ freedom to live out and practice their faith must now give way to majority attitudes that support all sexual behaviour, as long as it’s consensual … except for the choice of abstinence. The Court says to abstain from sex is to “live a lie” and “deny a crucial component of identity.” Canada no longer has room in its public square for minority (a.k.a. “offensive”) opinions about sexuality, gender, marriage, or the right to life.

Sure, you can still be a labourer or businessman if you adhere to backwards views, for now. But don’t bother trying to become a lawyer, teacher, doctor, nurse, or engineer.  Welcome to the new Canada.