An evangelical Christian university in Canada has won a decision by the Appeal Court of British Columbia (BC) in favour of its 'community covenant' that bans its students from having sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.
The Appeal Court of BC yesterday released its decision in favour of Trinity Western University, describing efforts by BC's law society to deny accreditation to the school's future lawyers as "unreasonable."
In a unanimous decision, a panel of five judges invoked religious freedom.
"A society that does not admit... 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," says the 66-page judgment, according to Canadian newspaper The Star.
"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."
The law society has argued that the controversial code of conduct discriminates against gay people hoping to enter the legal profession.
But the Appeal Court decision found that denying approval to Trinity Western would not enhance access to law school for gay people and so wouldn't help the law society meet its public-interest objectives.
"While we accept that approval of [Trinity Western's] law school has, in principle, a detrimental impact on LGBTQ equality rights, because the number of law school places would not be equally open to all students, the impact on applications made... by LGBTQ students would be insignificant in real terms."
Both Nova Scotia and Ontario's law societies have challenged the school's push for recognition.
The Nova Scotia (NS) Court of Appeal has denied the NS Barristers' Society's attempts to prevent the school's law graduates from receiving accreditation in that province, and Ontario's Appeal Court upheld a ruling against Trinity Western, approving the law society's attempt in that province to deny recognition to the university's future law graduates.
But law bodies elsewhere have mostly approved accreditation, including in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.