Will lawyers from Canada’s Christian law school be able to practice?
Trinity Western University in British Columbia, an evangelical liberal arts university, is creating a Christian law school. It has successfully met the government requirements to get started, but is running into quasi-governmental hurdles.
TWU, like many evangelical institutions, has a community covenant, or lifestyle code, for students, faculty, and staff that (among many positive and negative guidelines for action) restricts sex to male-female marriages. This restriction conflicts with contemporary sexual standards, of course, and has been labeled as discriminatory. Some Canadians–including some Canadian lawyers and law professors–seem convinced that any lawyer turned out from such a bigoted institution will necessarily be bigoted and perhaps cannot be trusted to practice law justly. It doesn’t matter that the Canadian Supreme Court vindicated TWU in 2001 against similar charges that its education graduates were too bigoted to teach in British Columbia public schools.
The law societies (bar associations) of many of the provinces have voted to accept the future TWU law school graduates, but the societies for Ontario (Upper Canada) and Nova Scotia voted to reject them.
In response to the Ontario decision, TWU said, the “decision to reject otherwise highly qualified graduates sends a message that in Ontario you cannot hold religious values and fully participate in society.” That’s a dangerous precedent, for sure, and TWU is going to court to fight for religious freedom for lawyers.