“Watershed Moment” For Religious freedom In Canada, Lawyers For Catholic Groups Warn

A case being heard in Canada’s Supreme Court tackles important questions surrounding religious freedom in the country.

The lawsuit involves a Christian university Trinity Western’s proposed law school which has been denied accreditation by both the B.C. Law Society and the Law Society of Upper Canada because of the schools’ community covenant.

Under the covenant, all faculty, staff and students agree to follow “Christian moral behaviours”, which includes abstaining from sexual activity outside of traditional marriage.

The law societies maintain that such a requirement is discriminatory towards LGBT students and have accordingly refused to accredit the institutions.

The appeal filed with the top court challenges the lower court decisions that upheld the positions of the law societies.

Recently interveners made several presentations to the Supreme Court on the case. Totally 27 interveners presented before the court with 13 of them appearing  in support  of Trinity Western’s right to keep a mandatory community covenant.

Case Ruling Will be Significant

According to the petitioners, a ruling against Trinity Western may impact all faith-based charities, schools and organizations that do not align with the prevailing views of the society on issues of sexuality and morality. This would include subjects such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia

Phil Horgan, president of the Catholic Civil Rights League, one of the organizations petitioning the court  said that the impact of the case will “significant for a generation”.

Ruling Against University Will Force Faith-based  Groups To Follow Government  Stance  

Derek Ross, president and general counsel for the Christian Legal Fellowship called it a “watershed moment” that will decide how courts view religious freedom rights and also “religious associational rights and equality rights on the basis of religion.”

Gwendoline Allison informed the Supreme Court that the refusal to accredit Trinity Western graduates indicated that religious beliefs were “unwelcome in the public sphere.” She further pointed out that the groups would be “directly and prejudicially affected” by a decision against the Christian university.

Allison represents the Faith and Freedom Alliance the Catholic Civil Rights League, and the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

William Sammon, representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted that a decision against Trinity Western could possible result in regulators opposing “any charity which holds faith beliefs the regulator deems discriminatory.”

Albertos Polizogopoulos, representing the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Gerry Chipeur, who appeared for the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Canada, also echoed the sentiment that a decision against the university would mean that charities would need to conform with the government’s views on sexuality and morality.

According to lawyers appearing for numerous LBGTQ organizations, Trinity Western should not be permitted to discriminate on grounds of equality for all. .

The Supreme Court has reserved its decision on the case


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