TWU Law School: a victory to celebrateWritten by Subby Szterszky
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If no news is good news, as the saying goes, then one might be tempted to assume that all news is bad news. Of course that’s neither logically sound nor true – although it very often feels true.
Indeed, we’ve learned to brace ourselves against a steady current of bad news. From overseas, stories of tyranny and terror break over us with alarming regularity. Closer to home, the lives of the unborn, the elderly and the disenfranchised continue to come under ever-increasing attack. Meanwhile, the essential human freedoms of religion and conscience are getting gradually eroded.
As those who know and trust God, we remind ourselves – and rightly so – that He is in control, even of the direst circumstances. And yet sometimes, when something genuinely good happens, we’re so surprised by it that we almost miss it.
Such is the case with Trinity Western University’s legal victory in the B.C. Court of Appeal granting accreditation to its School of Law.
A brief history of the TWU Law School court case
The story began a few years ago when TWU, a private Christian university in Langley, B.C., first proposed opening a law school that would specialize in charity and small-business law. The British Columbia Law Society initially approved the plan, but subsequently rescinded its approval and refused to grant the school accreditation.
This reversal was not due to any lack of professional or academic standards at TWU. Rather it was over the school’s community covenant, which requires students to abide by a Christian code of conduct that includes abstaining from sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage.
The Law Society viewed the covenant as discriminatory against members of the LGBTQ community, and consequently moved to bar future TWU alumni from practicing law in their province.
TWU brought their case before the B.C. Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the university. The Law Society then took the fight to the B.C. Court of Appeal, which also decided in favour of TWU. The Appeal Court found that the Law Society’s stance placed an unreasonable limit on the university’s freedom of religion, compared to the minimal negative effects accreditation would have on the LGBTQ community.
According to an excerpt from the court’s ruling, “A society that does not admit of and accommodate differences cannot be a free and democratic society – one in which its citizens are free to think, to disagree, to debate and to challenge the accepted view without fear of reprisal. This case demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism, can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.”
A victory for religious freedom and diversity of thought
Amy Robertson, a spokesperson for TWU, lauded the ruling. “Everyone, religious or not, should celebrate this decision as a protection of our Canadian identity,” she said. “The freedom to believe as we choose and practice accordingly is one of the most profound privileges we have as Canadians. We are a diverse, pluralistic society, committed to respecting one another even when we disagree. This is something people in many other countries don’t enjoy.”
Robertson is quite correct. This legal victory is a reason to celebrate for all Canadians, Christian or otherwise. In a climate that seeks to restrict freedom of conscience to an ever-narrowing private sphere, the decision represents a remarkable turnaround. Moreover, it acknowledges that the principle of tolerance, when wrongly applied, can in fact lead to the worst kinds of intolerance.
Perhaps most important, it recognizes that the legal profession (and by extension, Canadian society) can’t help but benefit from allowing a diversity of voices a place at the table – especially those voices that are culturally out of fashion.
Not that TWU’s case is closed, by any means. Parallel legal battles to the one in B.C. have played out in every province across the country. Most, but not all, have been resolved in the university’s favour, with Ontario being the chief holdout. Nevertheless, the B.C. Law Society is still considering further action, and the case is likely to wind up before the Supreme Court of Canada.
As the ancient hymn reminds us, God moves in a mysterious way. At times, He permits waves of bad news to wash over us in order to test our faith, to see if we will trust His sovereign wisdom and grace. At other times, He’ll delight us with a bit of good news to reassure us that He’s in control, active in the hearts and minds of individuals, as well as in the halls of power.
But whether the news is bad or good, God is the ultimate author of it all. As He revealed through the mouth of His prophet, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
For His people, all that remains is to watch and pray, to trust and be thankful.
Update: On November 30 and December 1, 2017, our friends at Trinity Western University (TWU) brought their arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada to defend their right to be a faith-based, accredited law school in Canada. Learn more
Sources and further reading
Mike Laanela and Farrah Merali, “Trinity Western University Law School wins legal battle in B.C. court,” CBC News, November 1, 2016.
Globe Editorial, “At Trinity Western, a delicate balance between religious freedom and freedom from discrimination,” Globe and Mail, November 4, 2016.
Canadian Press, “Trinity Western University wins legal victory in bid to open law school,” Huffington Post, November 1, 2016.
Canadian Press, “Proposed law school at Trinity Western University meets more opposition,” Maclean’s, November 8, 2016.
TWU Editorial, “Trinity Western University Law School receives positive ruling in British Columbia,” TWU News, November 1, 2016.
Additional information, including a FAQ and timeline of the legal battle, is available via TWU’s Proposed School of Law
Subby Szterszky is the managing editor of Focus on Faith and Culture, an e-newsletter produced by Focus on the Family Canada.
© 2016 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.
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