CHILLIWACK, British Columbia — In the latest of the trials over Trinity Western University’s planned law school, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has found in favor of the school, rejecting the Law Society of BC’s rejection of TWU.
The Law Society had not properly maintained its discretion when it went back on its initial approval of Trinity Western’s law school after holding a referendum among its disapproving members, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson found.
“I conclude that the benchers permitted a non-binding vote of the LSBC membership to supplant their judgment,” said Hinkson.
“In so doing, the benchers disabled their discretion under the [Legal Profession Act] by binding themselves to a fixed blanket policy set by LSBC members. The benchers thereby wrongfully fettered their discretion.”
The matter at issue is Trinity Western’s “Community Covenant,” which all staff and students must sign. The covenant is a pledge that an individual will maintain the teachings of the Bible and refrain from sex outside traditional marriage.
The Langley, B.C.-based school — Canada’s largest Christian university with 4,000 students — applied for and received permission from the British Columbia Law Society in 2013.
Afterwards, responding to the disapproval of its members — B.C. lawyers — the LSBC held a referendum. After finding that 74 percent of its members wanted to deny graduates of Trinity Western to practice, the Law Society changed its decision and withdrew its approval.
Hinkson concluded that, besides allowing their discretion to be clouded by popular sentiment, the Law Society had infringed on the freedom of religion guaranteed by the nation’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Hinkson ordered the Law Society to return to its original decision to allow Trinity Western’s graduates to practice law in B.C.
Provincial courts across Canada have been hearing Trinity Western’s case — some are finding for the school, some against. It is expected that the matter will proceed to the Supreme Court of Canada to be settled.
By Justin Munce