Canadian court upholds religious freedom of law students

Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society can’t deny accreditation to Trinity Western University law school for its beliefs about sexual behavior
Friday, January 30, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Joseph Infranco

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – A Nova Scotia trial court ruled Wednesday that the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society does not have the authority to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University’s law school because of its biblical beliefs on appropriate sexual behavior. The court concluded that the NSBS violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and did not consider “the concerns for religious freedom and liberty of conscience.”

TWU filed a lawsuit in October 2014 against NSBS after it refused to recognize TWU graduates as lawyers unless the school changed its policy on sexual activity and marital fidelity. TWU requires its students, faculty, and staff to refrain from having premarital sex or engaging in sex outside of a marriage relationship between one man and one woman.

“Canadians should be free to live and work according to their deeply held convictions. The same applies to faith-based educational institutions, which should be free to operate according to the faith they teach and espouse,” said Gerald Chipeur, Q.C., of the Canadian firm Miller Thompson, LLP, and one of more than 2,500 private attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “The court was right to affirm the right of this law school and its students to adhere to their sincerely held religious beliefs, which the Charter fully protects.”

Justice Jamie S. Campbell of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court wrote in the decision in Trinity Western University v. Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society that the case “is first about whether the NSBS [the bar association] had the authority to do what it did. It is also about whether, even if it had that authority, the NSBS reasonably considered the implications of its actions on the religious freedoms of TWU and its students in a way that was consistent with Canadian legal values of inclusiveness, pluralism and the respect for the rule of law…. I have concluded that the NSBS did not have the authority to do what it did. I have also concluded that even if it did have that authority it did not exercise it in a way that reasonably considered the concerns for religious freedom and liberty of conscience.”

“All faith-based institutions must be free to speak and act consistently with their faith without fear of retaliation,” added ADF Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco. “True religious freedom requires no less.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Chipeur (CHIP’-yur)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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