Thinking Out Loud

June 16, 2018

A Sad Day for Christianity in Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada had an entirely different view on dealing with religious or theological matters in 2004 than what was announced yesterday. [Source: ]

CBC News:

Trinity Western loses fight for Christian law school as court rules limits on religious freedom ‘reasonable’

Supreme Court of Canada says 7-2 decision will ensure open access for LGBT students

A B.C.-based evangelical Christian university has lost its legal battle over accreditation for a planned new law school, with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling today saying it’s “proportionate and reasonable” to limit religious rights in order to ensure open access for LGBT students.

In a pair of 7-2 rulings, the majority of justices found the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario have the power to refuse accreditation based on Trinity Western University’s so-called community covenant.

The mandatory covenant binds students to a strict code of conduct that includes abstinence from sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

The majority judgment said the covenant would deter LGBT students from attending the proposed law school, and those who did attend would be at risk of significant harm.

It found the public interest of the law profession gives it the right to promote equality by ensuring equal access, support diversity within the bar and prevent harm to LGBT students.

In the court’s view, the law societies were acting within their mandate in considering TWU’s admission policies in the accreditation process…

…there’s much more, continue reading here. CBC also mentioned:

Other professional programs at the university, such as the teaching and nursing programs, have been operating successfully for years, turning out graduates who are well-respected in the community, [TWU Professor Janet Epp] Buckingham said. She said she does not anticipate any challenges to those programs, whose students are also required to sign the covenant…

…But Andrew Bennett, director of the religious freedom institute at the Christian-based think tank Cardus, said the ruling could have broader implications for other professions such as medicine, and for other religious schools…

The Catholic Register reported:

…Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, whose diocese includes Langley, B.C., where TWU is located, said he was “saddened” by the decision “with its potential to undermine freedom of religion, conscience and association in Canada.”

“The decision runs counter to Canada’s tradition of balancing rights and freedoms, and the implications of this decision for constitutional freedoms in Canada are severe,” Miller said. The Archdiocese of Vancouver intervened in the TWU case jointly with the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and the Faith and Freedom Alliance.

“With this decision, the court has moved away from our historic tradition of reconciling competing rights, and closer to a prioritization of rights, essentially ruling some are more important than others,” Miller said.

The CCRL said the decision could have ripple effect. “The broader implications of the SCC’s decision will cast a pall on the future interface between religious viewpoints and state engagements in the public square,” said the League in a news release. “Questions will now be raised on continued or future access to state benefits, public funding or government approvals of available programs.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible decision,” said constitutional lawyer Iain Benson, who now teaches law in Australia. “It’s a very dark day in Canadian legal history.”

According to the majority view on the Supreme Court, “the standard religious position on sexual morality no longer accords with a reading of public interest,” Benson said.

“That is extraordinarily serious,” he said. “It has the potential to open up whole swathes of Canadian culture to scrutiny under so-called ‘charter values.’”

…read their entire report; continue reading here.

Peter Vogel of the Christian Heritage Party wrote,

This case has very serious implications for future decisions of the courts. Why? Because judges at every level, including the Supreme Court, are selected from the ranks of experienced lawyers. By making it more difficult for young Christians to pursue the study of law at an institution that honours their beliefs, this judgment has effectively closed the doors to many future Christian judges. The inevitable result will be courtroom decisions that ignore, not only Christian moral values but, the rule of law. Without the rule of law, justice and freedom will eventually disappear.

…for his entire column, continue reading here

There was also an interesting graphic on CBC News quoting the Supreme Court decision:

But one could argue the decision restricts access to legal education of Evangelical Christians. In another time, another place, the statement might just as easily read:

Realistically, it’s more in line with how things stand today. Further, the percentage of people in the general Canadian population identifying as “Christian” or “Catholic” is much larger than those who identify as LGBTQ. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, I suppose. 

In context, this decision comes just weeks after another event which has riled Canadian Christians from coast to coast: Federal funds for summer job grants were denied to religious institutions and Christians charities which refused to sign a statement saying that “anti abortion” wasn’t part of their “core mandate.” This, plus the legalization of marijuana, just weeks away, is seen as an attack on the values of Canadian Christians.  

Certainly, 2018 will see Canada’s attitudes on Christian values end much differently than the country started the year, leaving many Catholics, Evangelicals and even Mainline Protestants asking, ‘What’s next?’


Some comments on Twitter yesterday:


The school posted this video yesterday, although it doesn’t really address any of the issues:

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