(Lighthouse News – June 28, 2018) Trinity Western University continues to evaluate this month’s Supreme Court of Canada decision on its application to open a Law School. The court ruled that law Societies in BC and Ontario were justified in refusing to admit graduates of that proposed school to the bar in their respective provinces. The ruling said that TWU’s community covenant, under which students and staff pledge, among other things, to only engage in sexual activity inside the bounds of heterosexual marriage, was discriminatory against the LGBTQ community, and was thus a violation of so-called “Charter values.”
Janet Epp-Buckingham is a professor at TWU, and has been part of the group spearheading the efforts to start up the law school. She says when the ruling first came down on June 15th, the University administration looked at it and said “well, that’s the end of our dream for a law school.” However, she says, the ruling is very complex, and as they’ve continued to read through it, they’ve come to a slightly different conclusion. She says the decision is “very narrowly focussed on the ‘mandatory’ nature of the community covenant. So one of the possibilities that the University could consider would be to make the community covenant not mandatory.”
Epp-Buckingham says there are other Christian universities in Canada that have non-mandatory codes of conduct which try to establish “a Christian ethos and morality on campus” without having a mandatory community covenant, and the objective might be to get at a similar kind of thing but through “a different mechanism of establishing Christian standards, but in a different way.”
TWU has two other academic streams that require external certification of their graduates; a School of Nursing, and a School of Education, and Epp-Buckingham says that adds a further complication to the discussion. She says since the Supreme Court issued its ruling on June 15th, there have been “some conversations which have been initiated by the accrediting bodies (for nurses and teachers), saying ‘You know, we think that you should be looking very carefully at the court’s decision to determine if it’s going to impact on other professional programs.’”
If the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of TWU, the hope was to have the Law School up and running by September of 2019. Epp-Buckingham says even if the University decides to amend its community covenant and go ahead with the law school, the opening would still be delayed by at least a year.
A final response to the court ruling could be coming by the end of this summer.
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