Trinity Western University, a private Christian university in British Columbia, Canada is on its way to admitting its first batch of students in September 2016 despite having a policy against students and staff in same-sex relationships.
On Friday, the Law Society of British Columbia’s directors voted 20-6 in favor despite many of them using words like ‘abhorrent,’ ‘discriminatory,’ ‘hateful,’ ‘anachronistic’ and ‘fundamentally wrong’ to describe the evangelical Christian university’s anti-gay policy that all students and staff must sign and help enforce.
The school’s student handbook dictates that students must abstain from ‘sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman’, and students can face disciplinary measures for violating the policy either on or off campus.
It also states, ‘Further, according to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman, and within that marriage bond it is God’s intention that it be enjoyed as a means for marital intimacy and procreation.’
Critics say the school’s policy discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and question how the law school would educate students on discrimination and equality rights.
In a statement, the Law Society of British Columbia, which has webcast its Benchers’ discussion, says its decision has balanced two Charter Rights; the right to equality and the right to freedom of religion.
Trinity Western University’s proposed law school has already received preliminary approval by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) and B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education, according to local media reports.
Other provincial law societies are expected to make their decisions in coming weeks. Should they not accredit the school, graduates would not be able to practice law in the respective provinces.
University president Bob Kuhn was quoted as saying in The Canadian Press as saying that prospective students will not be asked about their sexual orientation during the application process, and that all students are welcome – as long as they agree to abide by the community covenant.
‘If a gay or lesbian or bi student wished to come to Trinity Western University and wished to comply with the community covenant as it’s written, then there’s no problem,’ he said. ‘If the answer would be no, then presumably they would choose another place to do their schooling.’
In 2001, the university won a similar case at the Supreme Court of Canada that affirmed its right to demand that students adhere to its religious beliefs about sexual orientation and marriage in a case that focused on whether the school should be permitted to grant teaching degrees in light of its policies related to homosexuality.