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Trinity Western University wins legal battle with N.S. Barristers' Society
Society had argued 'community covenant' discriminated against gay people
Nova Scotia's highest court has upheld a decision to allow future graduates of a conservative and controversial law school to practise in the province.
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision released Tuesday rules in favour of the proposed law school at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C.
Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom upheld in the charter - Trinity Western University spokeswomanThe private, Christian university had been turned down by the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society in 2014 because it requires students and staff to abide by a community covenant. The covenant says students must abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the "sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."
The barristers' society says that covenant violates the Charter of Rights with regards to sexual orientation and so it refused accreditation to graduates.
But the court said the society's council did not have the authority to "issue rulings whether someone in British Columbia 'unlawfully' violated the Human Rights Act or the charter."
The court did not comment on the charter arguments.
'Freedom of conscience'Trinity Western spokeswoman Amy Robertson has said the covenant has "nothing to do with wanting to push away members of the LGBT communities."
"The community covenant is a core part of defining the TWU community as distinctly Christian," she said Tuesday.
"We are not making a statement about LGBTQ people; we are making a statement about traditional Christian marriage, which is sacred to us. The same covenant calls for all members of the TWU community to respect the dignity of others regardless of their background."
The university took the case to the provincial Supreme Court — and won. The barristers' society's appeal was heard in April.
"Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom upheld in the charter," Robertson said in a news release Tuesday.
"Everyone, religious or not, should celebrate this decision, which amounts to a protection of our freedom and our identity."
The planned law school has already received accreditation in six other provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. It is expected to open in 2018.
Legal fights across CanadaThe Law Society of Upper Canada rejected the proposed school as well. Trinity Western appealed, but in June, received a negative ruling from the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The Law Society of British Columbia has also said it will not recognize graduates from the proposed school. That case is before the courts.
Trinity Western says it ultimately expects the matter to go before the Supreme Court of Canada.
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